Magic Chai And Michael McNab Grab Wellington Cup

Sam Weatherley salutes the crowd as he returns to scale aboard Enzo's Lad after winning the Telegraph on Saturday.

HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES Enzo's Lad, ridden by Sam Weatherley holds out Kawi (outside) and Ferrando (inside) to win the Telegraph on Saturday. HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES Part-owner Phil Bentley, right, celebrates the win of Enzo's Ladin the Telegraph on Saturday. HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES Legendary jockey Noel Harris, left, enjoys a laugh with Minister for Racing and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on Saturday. STUFF Sam Weatherley collects the 2016-17 Apprentice of the Year award alongside apprentice mentor Noel Harris. HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES Michael McNab celebrates after winning the Wellington Cup on Magic Chai at Trentham on Saturday. HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES Magic Chai, ridden by Michael McNab wins the Wellington Cup. HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES Stolen Dance, ridden by Sam Spratt, wins the Thorndon Mile during Wellington Cup Day.

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Most people see many Group I wins in Sam Weatherley's future, but, for now, the young apprentice is staying as grounded as possible.

The 18-year-old captured the first Group I victory of his career on Saturday when guiding 73-1 outsider Enzo's Lad to an upset victory in the Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham.

If there was an omen for the win, it came two races earlier in the day when Weatherley rode another outsider, Watch This Space, to second in the Group I Thorndon Mile. 

He said that performance gave him a big boost heading into the big sprint race.


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"Watch This Space is such a brave horse, he's one of my favourites and he stuck on very brave for second.

"That sort of just brightened my day a bit and I got to the Telegraph and he's a very smart South Island galloper. I thought if everything goes right, he's a chance, but it was an extremely strong field."

Everything did go right for Weatherley as he lobbed the five-year-old gelding into the trail from the ace draw, before getting a split between the two leaders at the perfect time to bolt to the line ahead of the fast-finishing Kawi.

​Weatherley's father and grandfather were both jockeys, and he said he was immensely proud to have added to his family's racing legacy in just his second season of racing.

"I'm over the moon. I was brought up in racing and been all around it and all I've ever wanted to do was be a jockey.

"Since a very young age a dream of mine was always to win a Group I. To do it after only been riding a year and a half, words can't explain how I'm feeling."

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With that being said, Weatherley was also aware of the fortunate position he was in, including being mentored by one of New Zealand's greatest every jockey's, Lance O'Sullivan.

"I can say I'm a Group I jockey now. People go through their whole careers and don't win a Group I, I'm fortunate enough to do it in my second season."

The win took Weatherley's career tally to 115, with stakes of more than $2 million, and he sits seventh overall in this season's jockey's premiership with 40 wins, 16 clear of the next best apprentice, Jasmine Fawcett. 

It was also a proud moment for former jockey Noel Harris, who has been mentoring apprentices, including Weatherley, since he retired from race riding in 2015.

The 63-year-old won the first of his four Telegraph's as an apprentice aboard Sharif in 1973 and saw a bright future ahead for Weatherley.

"It's his second year and he'll probably win the apprentice premiership again. For an apprentice to back up and win it again, he's probably a bit more forward than the other apprentices, but you always knew Sam was always in a hurry.

"When I say that, I mean he was keen to be successful - I think he was practising saluting the whip when he was on the jungle gym. 

"He's had a great tutor like Lance O'Sullivan, who keeps him grounded. That's probably the hardest thing when you're an apprentice, to just keep that level head. I think in time to come you'll see him in Australia being successful."

While the jockey's trophy for the Telegraph would head to Waikato with Weatherley and the trainer's trophy to Christchurch with Michael and Matthew Pitman, at least the owner's trophy would stay in Wellington with eight of the nine owners from the capital.

That group of owners watched the race from the edge of the track inside the birdcage and enjoyed a jubilant celebration immediately after the race.

Part-owner Phil Bentley went up the biggest and loudest. He has been involved in the ownership of many horses through the years, but never a Group I winner.

"It's a big thrill," he said. 

"Oh mate, we had our doubts if he'd even start or not because he didn't have the preparation for it.

"Both races he was in down south were abandoned, so he didn't have the race work in him we were hoping, but he drew one, got the track he wanted and we know if he can sit in behind them he will come over the top of them, and that's exactly what he did."

Having an apprentice on board for such a big race didn't bother him in the slightest, he said.

"We've always rated Sam. When Michael rang up and said Sam was going to ride him I thought 'good as gold' because I know he's got ability that boy, he'll go places."

The other big races on the day went a touch more to script, although the Thorndon also featured a bit of an upset when Sam Spratt rode the in-foal Stolen Dance to win at a price of 23-1 for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman. 

The Group III Wellington Cup (3200m) was won by one of the favourites as Magic Chai produced the strongest finish under the urgings of jockey Michael McNab for trainer Tony Pike.

The five-year-old gelding would aim for a Group I staying double, with the Auckland Cup (3200m) on May 10 the next target provided he pulls through Saturday's run in good condition.

There was a tragic note to the cup race, with Blathwayt having to be euthanised after fracturing a fetlock in the left foreleg when running down the straight the first time. 

- Stuff

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