“There’s this massive build-up and then either elation because you’ve won or that feeling of ‘what went wrong’. It’s a heightened feeling in horse racing, especially when you win a big race like today.”
Hansen added he loved playing against Australia, and while times were tough for rugby and all sports because of COVID-19, it was important ”once we get through it we all work together to make sure it keeps happening”.
Hansen finished up with the All Blacks at the end of last year’s World Cup and was coaching director in Japan with Toyota Verblitz before the competition was shut down by the COVID-19 threat.
Hansen’s father Des was keen on his horses, while Steve said he wanted to be a jockey when he was a kid.
He got into Nature Strip through his mates and fellow owners Pat Harrison and Peter Keen and is a huge fan of adopted Aussie trainer Waller.
“I’ve met Chris a couple of times and spoken to him on the phone. He’s a wonderful man, a very humble man, and I like what he does,” Hansen said.
“We’ll talk racing and rugby and we’ve formed a friendship. I look forward to getting out [to Rosehill] and looking at what he does once this virus goes away.”
Meanwhile, another champion coach, Gus Gould, had a share in Wheelhouse, a nice Pierro colt who clung to second at Hawkesbury.
And to think Gracie Belle was struggling to win races in far north Queensland less than 12 months ago.
The flashy grey botched the start, recovered and was then spared from having to go around a single horse to win the Country Championships Final for jockey Kerrin McEvoy and trainer Matt Dunn.
Dunn, who watched the feature from his lounge room in Murwillumbah and gave his four-year-old a decent cheer, said Gracie Belle would now be aimed at the $1.3m The Kosciusko in the spring.
Dunn left it to his wife Kiera to make the 18-hour round trip to Randwick and praised her for the work she had done with the mare back home.
For the breeding buffs, Gracie Belle’s sire, Top Echelon, also produced another northern Queenslander, Our Boy Malachi, who won 19 races and finished his career in the Big Smoke with Team Hawkes.
Dunn has more than a dozen runners ready to be unleashed at Ballina on Tuesday, including a Chris Waller-like six in the one race.
Jockey Grant Buckley is one tough hombre after he rode in three races at Newcastle with a fractured collarbone after a fall earlier on the program.
“Funnily enough, when I was riding it didn’t feel too bad, but once I cooled down and after a three-hour trip driving myself home from Newcastle, I knew something was wrong,” Buckley told The Mail.
“It’s the fourth time I’ve fractured my collarbone. I’ve done the left one and right once twice now. What do they say: ‘no brain, no pain’.”
Buckley, who racks up more kilometres than most other jockeys each year, will now be sidelined for four to six weeks.
Fines not fine
Chief steward Marc Van Gestel was asked by a key racing player during the week about giving jockeys fines rather than suspending them at carnival time.
The debate pops up whenever big races are there to be won, but it’s a valid point given owners and trainers can’t turn to Victoria or Brisbane for big-race replacements because of the COVID-19 travel bans.
Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry will both miss Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day.
“The issue was raised this week, but you still need a proper deterrent,” Van Gestel told us.
“If you fine a jockey $10,000 or $20,000 for causing interference and they go on to win $300,000 or $400,000, where’s the deterrent? Jockeys could be inclined to throw caution to the wind if we did that.
“We don’t enjoy suspending jockeys, but there needs to be a standard.”
Never in doubt
Doubtland romped to an easy win in the Kindergarten Stakes and the $1.1m Not A Single Doubt colt will be given a crack at the Golden Rose in the spring. Previous Kindergarten winners Biovauc, Astern, Hallowed Crown and Forensics have all gone on to win the $2m Rosehill feature.
Home and away
Carbine Club Stakes winner Entente is likely to target the Frank Packer Plate in a fortnight after original plans to head north for the Queensland Derby were thwarted once local officials abandoned their winter carnival because of COVID-19. Queensland-based breeder-owners Peter and June Dunn would have loved to have seen their Dundeel gelding on home turf but were just as satisfied Entente held off the fast-finishing Bottega to salute at HQ.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.