Downs enjoys Saturday double

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  • July 05, 2023
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Jumps jockey Nick Downs had a day to remember on Saturday, scoring wins as both a jockey and an owner.

The Waikato-based hoop kicked off the day in style when riding Country Bumpkin to victory in the Birchleigh Polo Club Maiden Hurdle (2500m) at Hastings for trainer Niall Quinn.

“It was a great run from Country Bumpkin,” Downs said.

“I was expecting him to jump a little bit better, but he came home well, I had a nice hold of him. I was quite comfortable down the home straight and he jumped those nicely.

“Niall did mention going to Riccarton for the National meeting, and in the meantime, I think he might put him in another amateur flat race for a fitness run.”

Two races later, Downs was rapt with Mizzena’s performance to go from last to second in the space of 600m in the Te Whangai Romneys Hawke’s Bay Hurdles (3100m) to finish behind gun stablemate Happy Star.

“That was a big thrill,” he said.

“She jumped really well and I had a good hold and sat right at the back. She was full of running and happy just ticking along.

“She made a couple of mistakes around the 600m mark which left her a little bit flat-footed, but turning into the home straight I pulled wide, pressed the go button, and we were away.

“It was a super run and I think if I had ridden her a little bit differently, she probably would have got a bit closer.”

Meanwhile, up north in Ruakaka, Downs experienced his first win as an owner when former Hong Kong galloper Not Ideal stormed home late to capture the Northpine Waipu Cup (1400m) for trainer Ken Harrison.

“That was exciting. He is the first horse we have had. He has now had two starts back in New Zealand for a second and a win, so I am very happy,” Downs said.

Formerly trained in New Zealand by Tony Pike, Not Ideal won his two starts as a three-year-old before he was transferred to Ricky Yiu’s care in Hong Kong, for whom he won four of his starts in the Asian racing jurisdiction, including his last start at Happy Valley in June last year.

The son of Nicconi returned to New Zealand last year and came into the care of Downs and his partner Caitlin McKee via bloodstock agent Garry Carvell for their rehoming programme.

The couple thought he was up to being tried as a racehorse once more and entrusted him to the care of Harrison, who subsequently joined them in the ownership.

Harrison was equally as pleased with the Ruakaka victory and the Cambridge horseman has big plans for the gelding, which may include an Australian raid.

“We were rapt,” Harrison said.

“It was a great run (for second last start) being first-up for 12 months. It was a little bit of the unknown yesterday (Saturday) going to a wetter track, but he handled that.

“The question is whether he handles the really heavy tracks. At the moment we are heading toward Riccarton (Gr.3 Winter Cup, 1600m), but things can change.

“There are a few weight-for-age races coming up and there is the spring carnival at Hastings we may look at. We may even look at Australia if he comes up and stays sound.

“It is very exciting for Debbie and I. We only train half a dozen horses and having a nice one like him is great.

“It is also exciting for Nick Downs and Caitlin McKee. They were given the horse to rehome, they got too busy, so they offered us a share in him and asked us to train him.

“They are a great, young couple and it is exciting for all of us.”

While Downs and McKee have plenty to look forward to with Not Ideal, they have got another former Hong Kong galloper in their care that they are looking forward to resuming on the racetrack, this time with McKee as trainer.

“We have got another nice one called Wanderin Apache (raced as Mighty Giant in Hong Kong). He is not far away from stepping foot on the track,” Downs said.

“He won seven in Hong Kong, including five in a row, and won $11 million (NZ$2.3 million). He was a 1400m specialist and raced against Golden Sixty in the Champions Mile (Gr.1, 1600m).”

The son of Power won two trials in New Zealand for former trainer Ross Beckett before his sale to Hong Kong interests where he made his mark for trainer Ricky Yiu, with victory in the Gr.3 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) and placings in the Gr.1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) and Gr.3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1400m).

“He is a lovely looking horse – 17.1 hands, big chestnut with a white face. He is a real character,” Downs said.

“Caitlin has applied for her owner-trainer license and we will train him ourselves. He will be ready to start in four weeks.”

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