Riding high at Melton

On a night when superstar pacer Ride High stole the headlines for his breathtaking return to racing, it could be easy to forget the return of Savannah Jay Jay to the winner’s list at Tabcorp Park Melton.

The evergreen nine-year-old showed he will be a major player in upcoming feature races after registering his first success since May 2019 in the Woodlands Stud Trot (2240m, NR 70-120).

Given a perfect drive by reinsman James Herbertson, Savannah Jay Jay tracked long odds-on favourite McLovin for much of the trip and then outgunned him in the home straight.

“It’s super to have him back,” Herbertson said.

“It was all super at the end of his last campaign and then got a bit of bad news that he’d got a couple of injuries. He’s always had bad feet, (Invermay-based trainer) Stan (Cameron) said, and I thought the run had finished, but tonight the old Savannah Jay Jay… I think he’s back.”

Herbertson and Cameron teamed up to win their first group 1 race with Savannah Jay Jay in the 2019 Australasian Trotting Championship and Saturday night was just the second time since that the trio had joined forces. Herbertson had been unable to keep the drive on the horse through the early stages of the regional racing model.

“It was just super to be able to get back on him,” he said.

“We’ve had such a good run and hopefully it hasn’t finished. Tonight has given me a big buzz. To win on him again, it means a lot.”

Just over half an hour later, the return of Ride High didn’t disappoint. In fact, the Clayton Tonkin-trained gun’s comeback would have exceeded the expectation of most.

Kima Frenning had been nervous about her first drive behind the five-year-old, but barely had a moment to worry as the son of Art Major strolled home to win the Vale Rod Osborne Pace (1720m, NR 90-120) by nearly 30m.

Tonkin’s partner Emma Stewart had declared the horse the best in Australia when fully fit and that statement looks hard to argue based on Saturday night’s display. Ride High reeled off a blistering 1:51:6 mile rate, including final quarters of 26.9 and 25.8.

Stewart said the horse would be raced sparingly in the lead-up to some of the big feature races, including the Victoria Cup in October.

“He’ll keep ticking along and stay in work and we’ll probably just pick races here and there for him,” Stewart said.

In an ominous sign for future rivals, Stewart believes there’s still “a fair bit” of improvement to come with Ride High, which has now won 11 of 12 career starts.

“There’s definitely improvement there and to do what he did tonight is just a huge achievement, not only for the horse but for Clayton in getting him to perform so well… he’s done a terrific job,” she said.

It was announced last week that the 2020 Victoria Cup will carry $300,000 in prizemoney, as will the 2021 Great Southern Star for the elite level trotters such as Savannah Jay Jay.