Apprentice Callum Jones made the most of a late call up when he guided outsider Ocean Billy to victory in Saturday’s Gr.3 SKYCITY Hamilton Waikato Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa.
Trainer Bill Pomare had struggled to book a rider for the Ocean Park five-year-old leading into the race and turned to the inexperienced Jones, who had ridden the horse to win an open handicap over 2200m at Ruakaka back in September.
Jones, who can still claim a three-kilogram allowance in eligible races, threw caution to the wind midway through the 2400m feature as he sent Ocean Billy to take over the pace-making duties from last year’s winner Justamaiz.
Jones went for the doctor approaching the home turn as he shot three lengths clear on Ocean Billy, who fought like a tiger all the way down the straight to land his biggest career victory by three quarters of a length from race favourite Savy Yong Blonk, who chased him for the last 400m.
It was an emotional Pomare who accepted the congratulations on a fine victory after the race.
“I had a feeling that the further this horse went the better he would be,” Pomare said.
“I’ve been patching him up for the last two weeks and I honestly thought he wouldn’t be here.
“I couldn’t get a jockey as I asked several to ride him and, in the end, I thought I know someone who has won on him so that’s why the boy was on him.
“He’s had five rides for me now and won three of them, so I’m rapt for him.”
Despite the issues they had experienced Pomare, who co-owns Ocean Billy with his wife Suzi and Rotorua stalwart Peter Ludgate, had been quietly confident of a good run.
“I’m rapt for me old partner Peter Ludgate and I hope his heart handles all this while my wife Suzi will be over the moon,” he said.
“I felt this was something he was capable of and with the money he was paying ($23), I did think he was better than that.
“He knocked a fetlock joint before the Counties Cup (Gr.3, 2100m) and in the last three weeks he has had issues with mud rash so we’ve been working overtime to get him here.
“I know how good he is, although it’s hard telling people, but today he showed them all.”
Jones, who is in the first full season of his apprenticeship and with just 134 race rides under his belt, was struggling to take in what he had achieved in the race.
“He’s an extremely tough horse and although it wasn’t the way I had wanted the race to pan out, it worked,” he said.
“I’m really happy and I couldn’t have asked for more, so I’m just stoked.
“The last win he had was when I rode him so it’s just cool to get the ride and to keep that strike rate up on him.
“This probably won’t sink in for a while.”
Bred by Pomare and Kirkwall Thoroughbreds Ltd, Ocean Billy is out of the Listed Newmarket Handicap (1200m) winner Cool Storm and has now won six of his 18 career starts.