Rodney Robb wins Bourke Picnic Cup with maiden galloper Knee Slapper

Emily Waters guided the Rodney Robb-trained Knee Slapper to victory in Sunday’s Harry Hart Memorial Picnic Cup at the Back O’ Bourke race meeting. Photos: Racing Photography.

It’s not every day that you see a maiden galloper take out a graded race, let alone win a cup race but that’s what happened at the Back O’ Bourke picnic races on Sunday. 

The Rodney Robb-trained Knee Slapper started as $8 and was one of the outsiders in the $11,000 Harry Hart Memorial Picnic Cup, but under the guidance of Emily Waters, the six-year-old was able to lead all the way over the 1600m journey, beating home the Wayne Marsden-trained Allez Rev (Ricky Blewitt) by 0.13 of a length, while a further length away in third was the Connie Greig-trained and race favourite Gossip (Leandro Ribeiro). 

Waters said the Nyngan galloper led from pillar to post. 

“We pretty much jumped and led, and we managed to get a really soft lead,” Waters said.

“We weren’t taken on until we were in the straight and he kept plugging along and managed to hang on.”

Waters didn’t expect to win the race and was somewhat surprised to see the maiden beating his more accomplished rivals. 

“It came as a bit of a surprise, and a pleasant one,” Waters laughed.

“If you looked at his previous runs, he never saw the track last start, but Rodney assured me he wanted the distance and that he would be right up there in the placings and he was right and he knows how to place a horse.”

Waters, who only rode her first winner at Tullibigeal late last month, has now won four races from her last 11 starts, including two cups, and she said winning the Harry Hart Memorial Picnic Cup was a memorable experience.

“It was incredible,” Waters said.

“We decided to make the trip and we are on our way home (to Wagga) now, and to pull it off and win the cup was the perfect little end to the day.”

Waters praised the Bourke committee for presenting a track that exceeded her expectations. 

“It was awesome. It’s honestly such a well-maintained track,” Waters said.

“It was my first-time racing on the sand, but there was no dramas and they have done an incredible job looking after it.”

While Bourke left a lasting impression on Waters, the young jockey impressed Rodney Robb, and despite it being her first ride for the legendary country trainer, he explained that she had been on his radar for some time.

“She rang me out of the blue; before she ever had a ride in a race or her ticket,” Robb laughed. 

“She told me she was going to do the back country meetings and I know her dad pretty well and her boss Scott Spackman,” Robb said. 

“She was supposed to ride Rogue Runner at Bedgerabong for me, but she couldn’t because she was living with someone with Covid, but she was always going to ride for me when we had the chance.

“She is keen, and you want to give those young kids a try and give them that chance and help them a long, and she is a nice young kid, and she has a good family and team behind her.”

Robb kept the instructions pretty simple at Bourke, and he was surprisingly confident Knee Slapper would go close to winning despite the fact that the Clangalang gelding had gone 31 starts without winning before Sunday’s victory.

“I talked to her the other day after they accepted and I said, ‘he is only one-paced, but he has no weight and he is a bold going big horse’,” Robb said.

“I said, ‘I know he is only a maiden but go forward with him and the others will think you’re just running them a long’, and that’s how it worked out.”

Knee Slapper has only started four times for Robb since coming across from South Australia, finishing third at Tottenham, second at Broken Hill and 10th at Wellington before winning the Bourke Picnic Cup.

“I had that race at the back of my mind for him,” Robb said.

“Me and Paul (Walsh) own him, and we can choose to run at these races and have a bit of fun with him. 

“I’m not sure what he will come out the other side, and if he will be punished for winning the cup, but we will go wherever he is eligible and look to target more of those picnic races.”

Knee Slapper’s win in the Harry Hart Memorial Picnic Cup capped off a big day for the Back O’ Bourke Picnic Race Club, with Leandro Ribeiro landing yet another treble, while Dylan Stanley was also in the winner’s circle. 

For full results, readers can click here