Jockey Jay Ford and Takedown after winning the Black Opal Stakes. Photo: Matt Bedford Takedown wins the Black Opal Stakes at Thoroughbred Park. Photo: Matt Bedford
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It wasn’t the Single Gaze victory for home town trainer Nick Olive that would’ve set Canberra’s Thoroughbred Park alight, but for winner Takedown’s jockey Jay Ford, the group 3 Black Opal Stakes (1200 metres) felt like a home-town salute at the place where it all began.
Takedown also marked trainer Gary Moore’s first stakes win since returning to Australia from Macau and it fittingly came on his birthday.
A crowd of 9850 turned out in brilliant weather, with hopes a Canberra horse could win the $275,000 Black Opal for the first time since 2011 when You’re Canny saluted for Gratz Vella.
It was part of Canberra’s Super Sunday that saw the return of group racing to the nation’s capital following the Black Opal’s upgrade to group 3 status.
While Single Gaze fell one length short, Olive couldn’t fault the effort of his two-year-old filly, who got caught wide for a lot of the trip.
But she couldn’t run down Takedown, who’d managed to skip away in the straight.
Godolphin’s $3.20-favourite Antelucan, trained by John O’Shea, was third.
Olive said it was too soon to think of where to next for his talented daughter of Not A Single Doubt.
“Really proud of the filly, just one day I hope she gets a nice run in a race,” he said.
“Obviously disappointed, but super proud of the horse, I thought the horse went super.
“Personally you don’t know if you’ll get another chance as good as this. It’s a long wait for the next one.”
Ford was glad to finally win an Opal, having run a few places before and said it would go nicely with the listed Canberra Cup (2000m) he won on Keith Dryden’s Testa Grande in 2007.
Known in Canberra for his time on board Takeover Target – a Queanbeyan horse that taxi driver Joe Janiak bought for just $1375 before winning more than $6 million in prizemoney – Ford started out as an apprentice with Dryden.
The Sydney-based hoop has continued to ride in the ACT and maintained a connection ever since.
“I’ve won the Cup before and now I’ve won the Opal so it makes it that little bit extra special pretty much being from here and being apprenticed here,” Ford said.
“I’ve gone close before in the Opal, a few placings, but it’s good to finally win it.”
Moore was in Adelaide for the yearling sales, but his son Nicholas was on hand to receive the Black Opal.
Nicholas wasn’t sure what his dad had in mind for Takedown, but said they hadn’t paid up for the $3.5 million Golden Slipper Stakes – so if they did choose that direction they’d need to pay the $150,000 late fees.
Having returned to Australia in August, it will certainly be a birthday Moore won’t forget.
“It’s great to be home and great to have our first Stakes winner, on dad’s birthday, it’s unbelievable actually,” Nicholas said.
“This horse is unbelievable, he’s surprised me, but dad from day one said, ‘Son, this horse is light on his feet, he’s got the right attitude and he’ll keep going forward’.
“When he first came we all looked at him and he was a giant, he can’t be much good, he’s too big, but he’s light on his feet and he’s a good mover and he’s an unbelievable horse, so exciting times.”
RESULTS: 1. Takedown, 2. Single Gaze, 3. Antelucan, 4. Chamarel.
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