Ponsonby to start omen bet in time-honoured Soldier’s Saddle

James Ponsonby will trek to Bathurst on Thursday with Western Front set to contest the Soldier’s Saddle.
Image: Racing Photography.

An omen bet for punters could be the well-named Western Front in the Soldier’s Saddle, which highlights Bathurst’s annual Anzac Day meeting on Thursday.

During the First World War, the Western Front played a telling part in the conflict between 1916 and 1918 and the subsequent creation of the Anzac legend we celebrate today.  

Of the more than 295,000 Australians who served in that theatre, some 46,000 were killed in action or died from other causes. More than 100,000 were wounded. 

Trainer James Ponsonby said he would be especially proud of Australia’s rich Anzac history when Western Front, who coincidently raced in France before arriving in Australia, contests the $36,000 feature race honouring the men and women who fought and died for Australia. 

“It’s no different to the AFL players who play on Anzac Day, and they talk about being out there to play on the day and represent their country on a day that we remember our war veterans,” Ponsonby said. 

“It is a good opportunity for us to race Western Front, which fits in well with the day. 

“It’s a day where we don’t pay so much attention to the racing, and it’s more a mark of respect to those who helped make our country what it is today. 

“If he got the job done from the tricky barrier (10), it would be a special achievement and a good occasion to be part of.”

The Dark Angel gelding is an interesting commodity, with Western Front racing five times in France in late 2021 and early 2022, winning his maiden over 2000m.

He then joined the Annabel Neasham team, and in January 2023, Western Front won a 2000m Class One Plate at Kembla Grange.

He has failed to fire in recent starts, and Ponsonby bought him as a possible Country Cups and Big Dance contender.

“I bought him off Inglis Online for $14,000, and a few of our mainstay owners opted to go in the horse,” Ponsonby said. 

“I like him, and he’s a horse that showed considerable talent in France, and he’s been competitive from a mile to 2000m. 

“I think that can translate to decent enough form in Australia, and the plan is to get him back to a mile, race him handily, and if he can get a bum to follow, he’ll be thereabouts in some nice races.”

Still, Ponsonby has had to work on the French import, who was first-up at Wyong earlier this month when getting to the line nicely to finish sixth, beaten two-and-a-half lengths by the impressive Chevron in a 1350m Benchmark 68 Handicap. 

Ponsonby believes he has the enigmatic galloper sorted out leading into Thursday’s race, and he’s pleased to call on leading country hoop Mathew Cahill in the 1400m Class Four Handicap.

“He’s obviously a horse that has raced well over longer distances in France before coming to Australia,” Ponsonby said. 

“He came to me with his manners needing some work, and we’ve found that the shorter races will suit him for the moment.

“The seven furlongs at Bathurst will be good; it’s not the ideal gate, but we have M (Mathew) Cahill on board, and we’ll leave it in his hands and hope for some racing luck.

“I was happy with his first-up run, but at Bathurst, it will be a matter of him having a fast enough tempo and navigating a path to the line.”

The Soldier’s Saddle headlines a huge day at Bathurst and a massive day of racing in NSW. 

There are marquee and trackside options for the race day, fashions on the field, and entertainment. 

For more on Bathurst’s big meeting, click here