Lea Selby’s veteran stayer enjoying a new lease on life

Cassey Williams and the Lea Selby-trained Divine Sanction will look to make it back-to-back wins at Grafton on Sunday. Photo: Ellen Dunger.

Armidale trainer Lea Selby absolutely loves her old stager and last-start Coffs Harbour winner, Divine Sanction. 

The 10-year-old, which monsters over most other gallopers at 17 hands, has had his fair share of problems during a 34-start career that has yielded five wins and eight minor placings.

The Teofilo gelding, which is out of Irish Blessing, raced with the likes of John O’Shea, Darren Beadman, Darren Weir, Symon Wilde, and Sally Taylor, and while he is nearing the end of his career, he’s proving that age is no barrier and that a happy horse will always give his all in the right conditions. 

Selby, who purchased the gelding as a project, has since been rewarded, with Divine Sanction taking out the Country Boosted $30,000 1613m Benchmark 58 Handicap at Coffs Harbour on January 8.

“I paid $1000 for him,” Selby said.

“I love buying old horses that I know can gallop but people have given up on.

“It has taken a long time to get him right, and because he is a bit older, it has taken me a bit longer to get him up and running.

“We had to fix some problems; he has feet issues, and he was tying up, but I got him in the paddock, and I’ve kept him calm, and now he is happy and starting to come good.” 

Prior to his win at Coffs Harbour, Divine Sanction was beaten just 0.04 of a length by Brunel Kingdom in the 2200m Benchmark 50 Handicap at Bowraville on December 28, and Selby believes her stayer is just starting to come into his own.  

“He’s a big horse and he can’t be interrupted during the run; you can’t stop and start a train, and he is just like a train, so he does need the right type of race,” Selby said.

“He’s always had the ability, but the turning point was his trial at Grafton (in February of last year), and that’s when I knew he would make a good horse.

“He finished third that day (to Tis Toby), and he ran home in 33 or 32 seconds for the last 600m, and I’ve never had a stayer run home that quickly before. 

“I said to Cassey (Williams) after the trial, ‘this horse is going to be exceptional’, and that it was only a matter of fixing his anxiety problems.”

Cassey Williams has ridden Divine Sanction recently, and Selby had nothing but praise for the Armidale apprentice. 

“She is underrated, and she flies under the radar,” Selby said. 

“Only the astute people know what she’s capable of, and I’m lucky that I know.

“That run at Bowraville was very good, and she was unlucky not to win, and she knows my horses, and rides all my horses, and I think that helps.”

The pair will head to Grafton on Sunday, with Divine Sanction drawing gate two in the 2200 Benchmark 58 Handicap, and after Williams’ three-kilogram claim, he will only carry 56kg over the 11-furlong trip. 

Selby, who rides all the veteran galloper’s track work, explained he had come on since the win at Coffs Harbour, but she wouldn’t go as far as tipping him to win at Grafton.

“I ride his work, and he’s come on better after the run, and he’s improved,” Selby said.

“I won’t say he can win because when I think they are going to win, they don’t, and when I think they won’t win, they do.

“I will say this, he did it easy last time, and we were setting him for this race at Grafton and it was just a run at Coffs Harbour, but it was a weak race and he won it well.”

The Selby stable faces a big three days of racing, and while Divine Sanction and his jockey Cassey Williams appear to be a massive chance at Grafton on Sunday, the Armidale yard will also race at Deepwater (Invincible Faith, Nature Boy) on Saturday and Armidale (The Difference and Money Shot) on Monday.