Byatt to make ‘Highway debut’ with Demanding Mo

Graham Byatt, pictured here at Tumut Turf Club with apprentice Hannah Williams, will prepare his first TAB Highway runner on Saturday.

Tumbarumba local and Wagga-based trainer, Graham Byatt, will prepare his first TAB Highway Handicap runner on Saturday with Demanding Mo set to jump from gate six in the 1400m Class Three Handicap at Royal Randwick. 

The five-year-old will arrive in Sydney fresh off a tough as guts win at Wagga on Christmas Eve.

The Uncle Mo gelding raced on the speed in that 1400m Benchmark 58 Handicap, before finding the front for Jeff Penza and holding on gamely in what turned out to be a tight finish. 

Byatt wasn’t holding back when discussing Demanding Mo’s chances either, and he believed his gelding was every chance of springing a surprise in town. 

“We think we are a genuine chance,” Byatt said. 

“His form warrants the trip up there. It was a good run at Wagga, and he toughed it out. 

“The start before was at Albury in that (Benchmark) 66 and he was only beaten by a couple of better horses on the day by a neck and a neck.

“Plus, he is dropping a bit over a stone in weight, and I think he can go close.” 

Jeff Penza was able to help Demanding Mo get the bickies at Wagga, and it was only due to a misunderstanding, that the veteran hoop missed out on the ride, and instead, Jay Ford has been booked.

“They (Penza’s management) left it a bit late. I probably could have put Jeff on, but I thought he was riding at the provincials, but there are no provincials on that day, and his manager called, but I already put a rider on,” Byatt said. 

“Jay Ford will definitely know that track and give him every chance and it’s good to have one of those city class riders on board.”

Byatt joked he would have to get the suit out of the wardrobe, with this being his first trip to town for a TAB Highway.

“This is my first time, and I will have to try and find my suit,” Byatt laughed. 

Owned by Pat Reardon and Stephanie Sutherland, Demanding Mo was previously trained by Trevor Sutherland, then he spent time with Theresa Bateup before finding his way back to Wagga and in Byatt’s stable.

“He was one of Trevor’s and he had been up at Theresa Bateup’s and had lost a bit of form, so they brought him home and then Steph gave him to me to train,” Byatt said. 

“He has had those couple of runs and it took me a week or so to work him out.

“The first run here at Wagga, he just over-raced and I only had him a bit over a week at the point, and I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me.

“Now he has settled down a lot better, he was stirred up when he got here, but now we have him poking around at Wagga good and he seems to have really improved.”

A win in town would be the ultimate reward for Byatt, with the hard-working trainer riding his own track work and offering a lending hand where possible.

A legend of the sport in his own right, Byatt won the 1989 VRC Grand National as a jockey aboard Sir Agrifo and has recently tasted success as a trainer in the Southern Districts – that was until a track-work mishap earlier this year left him sidelined with a severely broken ankle. 

“I’ve been back riding for a couple months,” Byatt said. 

“One reared over on top of me. It was very lucky because it could have been my head or back or something else.

“It seems as though my feet come out of the irons and when she fell on me, the stirrup landed on my ankle, and it was in between me and the ground.”

Byatt recovered earlier than expected though and was back in the saddle just 10 weeks after his nasty injury,” Byatt said. 

“I had ten weeks off with my broken ankle, exactly 10 weeks from the time I broke it, to being back in the saddle and I was lucky really, because the surgeon said I would have been out for at least three months,” Byatt said. 

“I recovered well and went back to him, and he put me through the paces, and I had another scan and he said it had knitted good and he was happy for me to go back to work.”

During his time out, Byatt lost the likes of Willybeafactor and Lennox Road, but he was pleased to report he was building his team back up to where it was prior to his injury. 

“It’s been a bit of a quick of turnaround. I lost a few of those good horse like Willybeafactor and I had to start up from the ground again,” Byatt said. 

“I only have five in work, but they are all going pretty good and I’m pretty happy with all of them.”

It will be a busy Saturday for Byatt, who also has Big Teddy racing at Gundagai’s New Year’s Day meeting. 

While Byatt will be in Sydney, friend and fellow Wagga trainer Russell Steiner will take the five-year-old to Gundagai to contest the 1400m Maiden Handicap.

“He should go okay,” Byatt said. 

“It was a good run the other day. He might have been stepped up a bit quick and might have been needing another 1200m, but it was certainly a big improvement on his previous runs,” Byatt said. 

“If he can run up to that run at Wagga, and I think he will improve a length or two, he will be very hard to beat.”

Punters can click here for full fields at Gundagai or click here to check out the TAB Highway Handicap field at Royal Randwick.