By Michael Manley
When Irish jumps jockey Willie McCarthy saw the entries for the $250,000 Grand National Hurdle he thought he was predestined to win the event on Wil John at Sandown Lakeside on Sunday and he was proven to be correct.
His rationale was simple as his second name is also John meaning the horse Wil John was going to be ridden by Will John McCarthy.
“I knew as soon as the entries came out it was meant to be. My middle name is John, so I'm Willie John, so it was good,” McCarthy said.
Since having his first ride in Victoria only a month ago the former leading American jumps jockey McCarthy has already cemented his position as one of the state’s leading jumps riders. His win on Wil John came at his 15th ride in Victoria and gave him his third winner.
McCarthy was pleased he could pay back Ciaron and Declan Maher and Dave Eustace with his first winning mount for them.
“It’s super to ride a winner for the boss. I came out here to ride work for him in May and this is my first winner for him, so it was a good way to kick it off,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy was also full of praise for Will John describing him as “a super animal" and one of the best he had ridden.
Maher said he was pleased to reward McCarthy with a feature win as he does a lot of work in the stable and is a great fellow.
Maher was thrilled to win his second successive Grand National Hurdle for owner Col McKenna who bred the six-year-old gelding. Maher also trained Wil John’s dam Arohanui.
Maher said Col McKenna and his wife Janice were massive supporters of the stable and also they were great friends. They named Wil John after their grand-son.
Maher said Wil John was an impressive stayer and a special horse.
He said he was already looking at next year’s Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool with the six-year-old gelding but firstly he had to decide as to whether he would tackle the Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat on August 28.
Maher said in addition to his staying ability Wil John’s other main attribute was his jumping ability.
“For a big horse over hurdles, he really finds his jumps well. You’ll see he just jumped his way into the race going up the back straight,” Maher said.
Social Element took his fencing record to four starts for four wins when he was able to defeat a quality field of feature jumps winners
The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott trained stayer now has a firm grip on the Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat on August 29.
Although Social Element won easily his jockey Tommy Ryan said he laboured on the heavy ground at the back of the track but when he got on to the firmer surface he came to life.
Ryan said Social Element jumped beautifully throughout the race.
“He’s winging his fences up the back and he kept himself in it by winging fences. He was so good up the back and at the top of the hill I just let him roll from there on,” Ryan said.
Ryan said Social Element was improving with every run over the fences and he said this was due to the work the stable’s Melbourne based employees Alva Prendergast and Beau Dunn have done with him.
Musgrove said he bought Tamarack a year ago and from the moment he started schooling him he became a rejuvenated horse.
His jockey Darryl Horner Junior said Tamarack was a horse that needed hard riding.
"He’s a horse that makes you work for your riding fee. He never travelled for a stride. He jumped good. The further he goes, the better he’ll get and it is another stroke of genius from ‘Mussie”, he’s pulled out another one,” Horner Junior said.