Top stayer Stafford’s Lad claimed the second leg of a goldfields feature double for the in-form Dan Morton stable after he was aided by a gun ride from Shaun O’Donnell in the XXXX Listed Kalgoorlie Cup (2200m) this afternoon.
Two weeks after taking out the Boulder Cup (2100m), Stafford’s Lad produced a gutsy performance to defeat No Apology by a neck with Native Chimes, the race’s sole mare, running out of her skin to be a short half-head away third after attempting to lead throughout.
Stafford’s Lad gave O’Donnell, who gained the prized mount after the suspension of regular rider, Chris Parnham, a second Kalgoorlie Cup after Classique Ivory won in 2013 and Morton his first, joining his father, Len, who enjoyed success with Sugarstone (1998).
Staring at $10.40 and lumping the 59kg topweight, O’Donnell’s ride on Stafford’s Lad helped propel the eight-year-old to his ninth win from 68 starts and helped soothe the pain after he finished second to Living The Dream in last year’s Kalgoorlie Cup.
O’Donnell had Stafford’s Lad settled midfield after jumping from barrier 10, but was trapped wide before making the race-winning move to go forward and sit on the outside of pacesetter Native Chimes approaching the half-way point of the race.
Stafford’s Lad gained a slight ascendancy over Native Chimes turning for home and displayed plenty of courage with big weight to repel her challenge in the straight before digging in to ward off No Apology who was given a charmed one-out, one-back ride from Lucy Warwick.
Bad Wolfe was nearly seven lengths adrift in fourth.
General Grant was sent out the $3.80 favourite, but after going back to near last, made up little ground in the straight to finish ninth.
A delighted O’Donnell lavished praise on Stafford’s Lad’s courage and tenacity and said he had no option to employ the tactics that he did after the pace slackened.
“I couldn’t believe it, I said I have to get on my bike here,” O’Donnell said.
“They were going way too slow and I had a horse outside of me driving me mad.
“Dan (Morton) said if they’re going too slow just put him into the race.
“Obviously I put him into the race a 1000m too early, but once he got there he settled.
“Then coming to the outside, I thought they are going to have to be good to beat him
“Getting to the 100m I thought I was holding these and he felt really strong.
“Dan had him rock hard fit as you saw in the Boulder Cup.
“He was so tough and strong it was amazing.”
Morton conceded he watched on anxiously from the sidelines and thought Stafford’s Lad could have been left vulnerable in the run home.
He said O’Donnell’s clever mid race move to go forward was pivotal to the gelding’s victory.
“Honestly, my heart was in my mouth,” Morton said.
“It was a smart ride by Shaun, he was buggered where he was sitting deep and made a heady move early.
“I didn’t go the early crow, I thought he was a sitting duck.
“It means a lot because Shaun was apprenticed to dad (Len) and they are Kalgoorlie boys really.
“It’s pretty special, it was super.”