17-year-old amateur jockey, Will Stanley, will experience the thrill of a lifetime at Coonamble on Sunday when riding in his first NSWPRA Picnic Champion Series final, jumping aboard the Clint Lundholm trained, Nepenthes.
The Bathurst hoop will also get the chance to showcase his skills on live television for the first time, with the $50,000 Coonamble final broadcast to the world, at the same time showcasing the best picnic gallopers and jockeys in NSW.
“The nerves are starting to hit home right about now,’” Stanley laughed.
“I’ve already got my bag half packed and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Stanley was originally booked to ride the Bryan Dixon trained Song One, but after the Gilgandra runner wasn’t nominated for the final, the youngster was left searching for a ride.
“Two days ago, I had no ride. I was originally booked for Song One, but Bryan called me and said he was bit by a spider and wasn’t running,” Stanley said.
“I was upset, because he worked enormous and was a big chance in the final, but Clint (Lundholm) wanted me for Nepenthes originally, and I thought to myself, ‘maybe I’ll be lucky enough that Clint didn’t have a rider for her’.
“Clint told me he didn’t have a rider, but he made me wait to find out, which was fair, but I got the ride and now I can’t wait for the final.”
Stanley, who turns 18 in just nine days, is hoping for an early 18th birthday present and he was keen on Nepenthes’ chances in the final.
He knows the five-year-old well enough too, after guiding her to a second placing in the 1400m Class B Handicap at Coonamble on August 7 before finishing third on her in the 1400m Class B Handicap at Gunnedah on August 28.
“I’m pretty confident with her. I know she will be hitting the line hard,” Stanley said.
“I’ve ridden her two or three times now and she is pretty good. She is a push button ride; you just need to let her warm into it, hit top speed at about the 300m and then let her down really nice.”
Regardless of what happens on the day, Stanley was just looking forward to the opportunity of riding in the bigger field and for $50,000.
“It will be different, and I’ll probably just need to be a bit more patient,” Stanley said.
“Win, lose or draw, I will be happy to get around safely and just say I rode in it.”
Lundholm was happy to have Stanley on board and he believed Nepenthes could give the final a big shake.
“I’m not too concerned about the barrier (13) as she will get back over the 1400m,” Lundholm said.
“She is definitely a miler, but she is on the minimum (weight) and she has a good young rider on board with Will Stanley.”
The Mulaazem mare is a last start Wellington winner, greeting the judge first in a 1600m Class B Handicap, but she snuck under the radar in the lead-up to the final, predominantly competing in Class B Handicaps, and Lundholm was left to wait until Thursday to find out if she would be drawn in the final 12.
“It’s just the way it has panned out. We could have gone in the open picnic cups, but these races suited her better,” Lundholm said.
“Those Class Bs were a way we could sneak her in. There was a bit of a wait this week to see if she would get in, but she did, and we are happy she is there, and we are happy with how she is going.”
The Dubbo stable have had the picnic final in mind for Nepenthes since January, and despite taking the road less travelled to the Coonamble final, Lundholm expects a good showing on Sunday.
“She is a Class One mare back at the TABs and can still compete for the $22,000 races, so she has a lot of upside,” Lundholm said.
“We had this $50,000 race in mind since she came back in January and now it’s October and she is racing in it.
“I think she can run an honest race. We wouldn’t have put all this time and effort in if we didn’t think she was a big chance.”
Lundholm will look to have more runners in next year’s final, with some of his team already earmarked as potential picnic cup horses.
“It is a $50,000 race on your doorstep, so we would be silly not to think about it,” Lundholm said.
“I have a couple that I produced at Wellington last week. Bandahara is a tough campaigner and is that sort of model of horse suited to picnic racing, and I’ve got a couple of others there that might be targeting this race again next year.”