The Railway Stakes is Western Australia’s most prestigious race, but in 2011 it was mired in arguably its greatest controversy with the aftermath reverberating around Australia and across the Tasman.
The nations racing eyes were firmly fixed on Ascot as a capacity field of 16 fought out it out for Group One bragging rights and a share of $1 million in prizemoney.
The field was littered with gun local hopes, Ranger, Luckygray, interstate rivals, Spacecraft and Avienus and lone international raider, He’s Remarkable.
And after the pre-race hype, just over 1 ½ minutes in time and 1600 metres in journey, New Zealand entire, He’s Remarkable, was crowned champion.
But in the space of 30 minutes trainer, Roger James, his owners and punters, who took the $5 on offer for He’s Remarkable, experienced the giddy highs and gut-wrenching lows of racing.
In a cruel blow, He’s Remarkable, the first horse past the post, lost the Railway Stakes on protest. The verdict decided in the stewards room.
Shaun O’Donnell, rider of Luckygray, second past the post, lodged an objection against He’s Remarkable’s jockey, Kerrin McEvoy, as did Paul Harvey who rode fourth placed Waratah’s Secret.
Harvey was unsuccessful but stewards concurred with O’Donnell, agreeing that McEvoy had shifted out on approaching the home turn, causing interference to horses on his outside.
They deemed Luckygray, who was picking up serious ground on He’s Remarkable inside the final 200m, to have lost ground greater than the long-neck losing margin.
The deliberation was long and lengthy. The reaction was loud and vociferous, but in a revealing post script, O’Donnell uncovered how one of Australian racing’s biggest controversies could have slipped through his grasp if not for Harvey.
“When I pulled up I was just filthy and though he was the best horse in the race and should have won the Railway,” O’Donnell said on TAB radio.
“Coming back to scale Paul Harvey said did I cop any of the interference because the winner clipped his heels and he nearly came off.
“Because I was four or five lengths back I didn’t happen to see He’s Remarkable come off the fence and the interference he caused.
“I wouldn’t have bothered viewing the film and would have just thought it was bad luck that can often happen in racing.
“That’s why I put in a protest and the rest is history.
“I know it was controversial but as soon as I saw the film I could see straight away Kerrin shifting off the fence.
“If I got beat two lengths I wouldn’t have bothered but it was such a small margin and he made up five lengths on a fair horse.
“It was bad luck he met interference, but then good luck that Paul spoke to me and alerted me to what happened in the race.”
O’Donnell partnered Luckygray in 24 of the gelding’s 33 starts for 11 wins, including a triple Group One triumph in the Railway Stakes (2011-13) and Kingston Town Classic (2012).
“I’ve been riding for nearly 28 years and he is the best that I have ever sat on,” O’Donnell said.
“I just pinch myself every day and think what a ride and how unbelievable it was.”
RWWA: Julio Santarelli