DARYL Archard picked the toughest race of the day at Echuca yesterday to fly the local flag.
The rain hammered down during the $18,000 Echuca Newsagency BM58 Handicap over 2124m, the track had just been downgraded to a soft 6 and his horse Blue Jangles was drifting in betting.
Blue Jangles had drawn top weight at 64kg so Archard had given the ride to promising apprentice Harry Grace in one of his last rides with his 3kg claim.
The youngster had ridden three winners in three days before turning up at Echuca for the meeting transferred from the troubled Seymour track.
At his last start – Caulfield on May 10 – the six-year-old gelding had run eighth in a field of 11 but it had been a bit of blanket finish.
All the money was for Up The Stairs, a last start winner at Bairnsdale, with Blue Jangles eventually starting at 6/1 after being better supported earlier in the day.
With rain going almost sideways by the time the seven-horse field arrived at the barrier Welcome Stryker jumped best but its rider eased back to let Blue Jangles and Up The Stairs take over the running
As the race progressed Grace held on tight and slipped to third on the fence with Up The Stairs and Ambassador Lad ahead.
As they turned onto the back straight Grace decided to stick to the race plan of hanging onto the favourite and hooked around Ambassador Lad and took the trail behind the leader.
He stayed there until 600-700m out when a charge around the outside by Steel Caps saw him shuffled back to fourth and fifth.
But Grace remained calm and the runs died as quickly as they had come and he resumed his duel with the favourite Up The Stairs.
They turned in that order and with 200 to go Up The Stairs looked to have everything under control.
But Blue Jangles at 6/1 kept stalking him before suddenly finding wings about 75m out to run Up The Stairs down and won by a long neck, going away, on the line.
Archard said the horse “did a good job”.
“When the leader kicked about 200m out I thought we might be in a bit of trouble but once he started to grind away I was pretty confident he would pick him up,” he added.
“It was a really good ride, a smart ride, by the youngster as we had decided we would try and sit on the favourite’s back – and he did exactly that,” he said.
“He did get back a bit but then he held his ground and finished well.”
Archard said he will look at a Wednesday start in a BM78 at Sandown if the right race came along.
“Otherwise we will just look around and pick something over this distance that suits him.”
After the drenching and the ride Grace was understandably delighted with his fourth win in four days.
“He’s a lovely horse but I have to say I was worried about the McArdle horse (Up The Stairs trainer John McArdle) because I knew he was going to try and kick away around the corner,” Grace said. “But as soon as my horse started to pick up momentum he went to the line really well,” he said.
“From the corner I was very confident although I felt over the last 100m he was starting to tough it out but he was doing the best when it counted.”
But the big winners on the day were jockey Jye McNeil and trainer Robbie Griffiths.
In late April McNeil had four wins in an eight-race card at Echuca and yesterday he backed that up with a spectacular treble, winning the $22,000 Border Inn Plate over 1209m with Liberal Arts; the $22,000 1Print Plate over 1209m (Walhalla) and the lucky last, the $18,000 Independent Cranes over 1312m (Toorak Warrior).
Griffiths trained Walhalla and Toorak Warrior while Liberal Arts is in the Greg Eurell stable at Cranbourne.