Patience rewarded after Eddie Gray pops up at big odds
Michael Lee
Trainer Stephen Gray heaped praise on his apprentice jockey Amirul Ismadi after Eddie Gray sprang a $139 surprise in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1200m on Sunday. The Kiwi handler said that the All American three-year-old is packed with ability, but somehow, the message to transfer that budding talent down to his limbs get mucked around in the head area.

Amirul, who recently returned from a fruitful three-month stint in Tasmania, was handed the task to school the wayward youngster to better manners, and his efforts were repaid manifold when the pairing charged along the rails to peg back runaway leader Ol Mate Buzzer (Simon Kok Wei Hoong).

Eddie Gray scored by 1 ¼ lengths from Ol Mate Buzzer, who held Libeccio (John Powell) by a short head to deny Gray a stable quinella. The winning time was 1min 10.5secs for the 1700m on the Polytrack.

“It’s a horse who came with some ability. He started favourite at his first race but was hurt that day,” said Gray.

“He got checked at his next run and then he just ran off the track twice, but Amirul had got him going since.

“He rides him in trackwork every day. He is a lot better behaved now.

“I didn’t think he could win today as I thought he wants a mile, but you have to get past these races, anyway. I told Amirul to ride him quiet and ride him for luck, and he might win – and he did.

“It’s great for his owner John Hatherley, who is British and lives in Hawaii. It’s his first horse with me.

“We’ve had some agonising time with the horse being so frustrating, but his patience has paid off.”

Eddie Gray was bringing up Gray’s 10th winner for the season, a score that reflects a relatively subdued start by his usual standards. Last year, the Kiwi handler had double that haul (21) at the same time of the year.

“It’s been a bit quiet for me this year. I got rid of a lot of horses, and for now I have a lot of low-rated horses with ability, and slowly coming through,” he said.

“What I am trying to say is the cream will rise to the top eventually.”

One person who is certainly doing his chance of rising through the riding ranks no harm is Amirul.

The son of Ipoh trainer Ismadi Ismail and nephew of jockey Azhar Ismail was grateful to his master for the opportunity to prove himself on a difficult horse, with that maiden win a nice kickalong.

Having started the Kranji season later in mid-February due to his Hobart stay where he booted home seven winners, mostly for his master for that time, Stuart Gandy, the 23-year-old was only bringing up his fourth win for the year, and the first for his boss.

“I’ve been working this horse (Eddie Gray) for the last three weeks now and I could tell he definitely made improvement from his gallops,” said Amirul.

“I did a lot of barrier education with him, and I was confident he would put his best foot forward eventually.

“I wouldn’t say my Tasmanian experience has helped me teach Eddie Gray to settle better but it has certainly helped me develop a better judgement of horses.

“He is no champion but he was spot-on today. I thought the leader would come back to us, but to his credit, he held on well today, but my horse was too good in the end.”