Crane sailing for shock 100-1 winner
Norfolk trainer Christine Dunnett's season has been sparked into life with an against-all-odds triumph by a horse being given his last chance, bringing joy to an owner who is lucky to be alive.
Rileys Crane stunned Yarmouth racegoers on Wednesday with a 100-1 win that left bookies smiling and all but the most optimistic of punters scratching their heads.
The improbable success in the seven-furlong Norfolktouristattractions.co.uk handicap was reward for all those that have stuck with the unpredictable four-year-old bay gelding throughout his troubled racing life – none more so than owner Stuart Crane who underwent a life-saving kidney and pancreas transplant at Addenbrooke's Hospital five years ago.
'Having that winner was the biggest thrill of my life.
'No one can take that away from me and money can't buy that,' said 38-year-old-Stuart, who spent seven weeks in hospital, was bed-ridden for a year, and only has 40 per cent partial sight in his one remaining eye, following a catalogue of diabetes-related problems.
Stuart, who backed the horse �20 each-way more out of habit than hope, obtained odds of 150-1 with an on-course bookmaker to win nearly �4000.
But he admitted that while he always thought the horse had some ability his expectations of a win on its 10th run were 'virtually nil.'.
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'I always back the horse – you have to back your horse,' he said, adding: 'I was numb. I could not believe it. Even now it still hasn't really sunk in.'
Stuart added: 'You could write a book about that horse.
'At one point we never ever thought he would get to a race-track.
'He always worked well at home and that's the reason why we have stayed with him – but we were seriously considering finding him another home.
'He is a nice horse but he will give you a bite now and then.'
Christine admitted the horse, born 'a rig' with one testicle, had been a 'nightmare' to train.
The colt was gelded but there had been scant signs of any improvement in temperament or form until Wednesday – when he was tried at seven furlongs, with a visor applied for the first time. Jockey Saleem Golam did the rest, winning the 14-runner Class 6 race with over a length to spare to secure the �1600 prize money.
'We put the headgear on Rileys Crane to try and get him completely focused and it worked,' said Christine.
'We knew he loved the firm ground.
'He travelled well, pulled away and won well in the end. It really did shock us.'
The success has at last confirmed that Riley's Crane, quirks and all, does have a part to play in the Sport of Kings, even if he has his own ideas about the game.
'Wednesday really was going to be his last chance.
'We have persevered with him and he has repaid us now.
'We will tolerate his quirkiness and sit down and decide what to do next,' she said.
She added: 'To see Stuart have a winner was absolutely fantastic. We had several bottles of champagne between us celebrating afterwards.
'I could not have had the winner for a better owner.'
Rileys Crane was the least fancied of the four Dunnett-trained horses in the race, with Captainrisk third at 22-1 and Avec Moi and Yakama unplaced.
Christine was delighted to be back in the winners' enclosure at Yarmouth where TV racing pundits have dubbed her 'Queen of the East Coast' for her record of success in years gone by.
Over a quarter of her 110-plus winners have been at her favourite track, including a treble in 2005 and another 100-1 winner Tata Naka in 2004.
In recent months success has proved elusive for the Hingham-based handler, who began training in 2001 and reached the 100-winner milestone in 2009.
Rileys Crane was her first winner in 27 runs during the current Flat season.
As to whether Rileys Crane has really turned over a new leaf, we'll have to wait and see.
'Until the next run he will be seen as a one- hit wonder.
'We will try and find another race for him at Yarmouth.
'Everything suits him there. Seven furlongs seems the perfect trip for him,' said Christine.