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Grand day for loyal jockey

The 21-year-old Scottish jockey had made a commitment to ride the Awapuni fencer in the Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury-sponsored feature prior to events of last Saturday.
McNeill was true to his word, even though he partnered Go Go Gonzo to a runaway win in the Sydenham Hurdles on the opening day of the carnival and the Laura Knight-trained Ready Eddie proved worthy of his rider’s confidence.
“I’m on cloud nine, this is what dreams are made of,” McNeill said. “It’s been a hard last couple of years with injuries, but this makes up for it. The horse gave me absolutely everything.”
It has been a memorable winter for McNeill as he has also won the Manawatu Steeplechase aboard The Oysterman, who is trained by Knight’s partner Stephen Nickalls.
His pre-race plan with Ready Eddie worked to perfection and after settling in the last two, they steadily picked up ground along the fence from the 1000 metre mark to have the free-going Go Go Gonzo in their sights at the top of the straight.
“I thought I would drop him out to the back and smoke my pipe and let the runs come and they did,” McNeill said.
Despite ordinary jumps at the final two flights, Ready Eddie proved too strong toward the end of a testing 4200 metres.
“I didn’t watch it until the last fence,” said Knight, who also shares in the ownership with her father, former All Black Gary Knight. “This has been the aim the whole year, to come down and try to win this. Hamish did a great job and I’m so grateful he stuck with us.”
Ready Eddie has now won four times over fences, including the 2016 Waikato Hurdles and he was also third in last year’s Grand National Hurdles.

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