Michael Wade breaks drought with Funny Hill Cup-Crookwell double

Michael Wade guides the Paul Theobald-trained Whirled War to victory at Crookwell on Saturday.
Image: Lance Fearne Photography.

On Saturday, talented picnic jockey Michael Wade put a tumultuous period behind him at Crookwell.

Riding his first winner in three years, Wade won the second event on the card at the Binda Picnic Race Club meeting when guiding the Paul Theobald-trained Whirled War ($3.40) to victory in the 1000m Maiden Plate. 

Capping off a triumphant day at the races, Wade teamed up with Canberra trainer Gratz Vella to win the time-honoured Funny Hill Cup (1400m).

Jumping aboard Crucial Witness ($5) in the $11,000 feature, Wade got everything out of the six-year-old Star Witness mare. 

She won by a half-head from the Darryl Rolfe-trained Final Showdown (Leandro Ribeiro, $4.60) in second, and a length away in third was the Matthew Kelley-trained Starliv (Sebastian Galea, $17).

Wade, who returned to the picnic circuit at Yass late last month following a 15-month break from race riding due to suspension and injury, was happy to be back in the winner’s circle. 

“It was a long time coming,” Wade said. 

“At the first two meetings, I went close and had two very close seconds, and finally getting the job done yesterday meant a little bit to me.

“My last win was a while ago, and I went to Crookwell with a full book and a winner or two among them.”

Whirled War had been knocking on the door of a maiden victory, only just going down at Bedgerabong in early February, and Wade was confident of a strong showing.

“I thought Paul’s was a good chance,” Wade said. 

“I watched Leandro ride it Bedgerabong when it just got beat, and one of my good mate’s dad owns it, so it was good to get the job done for them.”

The result in the Funny Hill Cup was a few weeks in the making, with Vella and Wade pencilling in the feature last month.

“Gratz got me booked two weeks before and said we’ll go to Crookwell, and I’ll leave it up to you on the day,” Wade said.

“The plan was to have her there, and we were three wide, but I just wanted to keep the horse happy.

“When we got to the 800m, she picked the bridle up and pulled me through, and I just let her roll. 

“By the 400m, she was on the leader’s back, and she just kept going and was very tough.”

Now based in Canberra, Wade is receiving a lot of support, and on Saturday, he rode for Matthew Kelley and John Rolfe.

“I’ve got a good network around me, and with Gratz and the other Canberra trainers putting me on, it means the world,” Wade said.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s been a massive change, and yeah, it was a bit hard to adjust to new surroundings, but I’m doing everything right. 

“My weight is getting better and coming down each week; I’ve done it a bit tough, but it’s paying off in the end, and I’m really stoked.” 

Wade wasn’t the only jockey to score a Crookwell double. Leandro Ribeiro followed up his two wins at Yass with two more at Crookwell. 

Teaming up with Darryl Rolfe, the pair won with Any Marg’lldo ($2.70) in the 1300m Maiden Plate and Luscious ($2.70) in the 1300m Class Three Handicap. 

Joe Cleary and Ricky Blewitt combined for a popular win in the 1100m Class Two Trophy Handicap, with Dollywood ($2.60) a well-supported victor. 

Dylan Parrott had another excellent day in the saddle and won on the Warren Ganderton-trained Artieos ($2.50) in the 1000m Open Trophy Race. 

NSW Picnic Racing action heads to Ardlethan on Saturday for the six-race program. 

For more on the NSW Picnic Champion Series, click here

For the 2024 NSW Picnic Racing calendar, click here