Indian Thunder goes back-to-back in Lightning Ridge Cup

The Kevin Dixon-trained Indian Thunder, ridden by Camille Houlgatte, went back-to-back in Saturday’s Lightning Ridge Cup. Image: Racing Photography.

Fan favourite Indian Thunder got the job done at Lightning Ridge on Saturday when defending his title in the Lightning Ridge Cup.

Trained by Kevin Dixon at Tamworth, Frenchwoman Camille Houlgatte was in the saddle, and the nine-year-old was too tough for his rivals in the $14,000 feature. 

Jumping smartly from gate two, he held off his challengers early before boxing on to beat the Clint Lundholm-trained My Oddette (Zoe Hunt, $6.50) by a long neck.

A half-length away in third was the Jane Clement-trained Toulon Factor (Shannen Llewellyn, $3.80).

Dixon was proud to see his Manhatten Rain gelding get the win while taking his earnings to a staggering $417,625.

“I thought it was a better field than last year, and he did well to win it,” Dixon told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“He led on the fence, and Camille said two were attacking him the whole way, so he held the inside running.

“They tried to cross him, but he had enough up his sleeve to hold the rail. Then, 200m from home, he pinched a break and once came from out of the pack, but he ended up winning by a long neck.”

Saturday’s result was a special one for connections, as it was the second time Kevin and his partner, Tracey (Newton), had won the rich opal bracelet designed by local jeweller Jo Lindsay at Lost Sea Opals

Last year’s bracelet was worth $22,000, and Saturday’s win meant the stable added another beautiful piece worth $25,000 to their collection.

“I forgot to wear last year’s bracelet because we were in a rush to leave,” Tracey laughed. 

“It’s very beautiful and such a good prize.”

Unfortunately for connections, they didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate their Lightning Ridge Cup defence.

Houlgatte, Indian Thunder’s regular rider, nearly missed the races after breaking down an hour and a half out of Lightning Ridge.

Still, the determined jockey made it work and arrived in time for the winning ride.

“Camille broke down on the way out there; they hit a pothole, broke both rims and were stranded at Burren Junction,” Dixon said. 

“She wanted to ride him and hitchhiked to Walgett, and we drove to Walgett and picked her up, and she just made it there for that race. 

“We ran around Lightning Ridge to try and buy a couple of rims and tyres and ended up with some second-hand ones from the wrecker. 

“Her friends were still with the car, and we got out there after the races and sorted it out, only to get back to Lightning Ridge at 12 p.m. last night.”

Indian Thunder has proven to be an old marvel and one of the last real champions of bush racing, starting 103 times for 11 wins and 27 placings. 

Dixon explained that his gelding required a bit of tender loving care, but he expects him to race on for another couple of seasons. 

“He’s a bloody good old horse, and he’s got his problems, but he’s going well,” Dixon said. 

“Six months ago, someone asked me, ‘Are you thinking about retiring him?’ and I said, ‘The way he is going, he might race until he is 12.’

“He loves it and doesn’t pull up lame, but he has a bit of a clubfoot, and he gets a corn in one of his feet and a bit of thrush in the same foot, so you’ve got to keep on top of that every day. 

“We work on it, and we live 15 km out of town, but he gets a float trip into the track every day, has his swim and massage in the morning and at night, and we just look after him.”

Dixon wasn’t rushing to find a race for Indian Thunder and will wait and see how he pulls up following Saturday’s win.