Star Perth Sprinter Let Go Thommo Defied Odds To Win Goodwood Sprint

Amelia’s Jewel and Oscar’s Fortune will fly the West Australian flag at Morphettville on Saturday whey they try and claim Group 1 glory in the $1 million Goodwood.

AMELIA'S JEWEL. Picture: Colin Bull / Sportpix

Over the years South Australia's main sprint has been kind to the Sandgropers with Vega Magic successful in 2017, Black Heart Bart a year prior and Let Go Thommo in 2007.

Let Go Thommo's win at $31 came as a major surprise and gave fledgling 29 year-old trainer, Steve Ryan, his greatest achievement in racing that has yet to be surpassed.

Let Go Thommo scored ultimate success in thrilling fashion, yet he battled to make the race and if not for his resilience and the wily judgement of a few veterans, a fairytale ending would have been lost.

Julio Santarelli from The Races WA recently spent time with Ryan to reminisce and revive fond memories of a special horse in a special race in a special victory.

JS: There's a bit of a WA flavour and interest in Saturday's Goodwood with Amelia's Jewel and Oscar's Fortune, does it bring back special memories from all those times ago or you always remember this race at this time of the year regardless?

SR: As soon as the Goodwood week comes around it's time to reflect and it's amazing how it's 17 years since he last won the race how quick it's gone. It's interesting to sit back and see the WA flavour involved this weekend, especially when you look back at Vega Magic who was the last WA horse to win and before him Black Heart Bart. This year with Amelia's Jewel and Oscar's Fortune we have WA representatives and it's pretty exciting.

JS: Can I take you back to the day itself and the lead up? Can I test your memory?

SR: It was an afterthought race for us because Thommo had a little bit of an injury, so we were heading towards the Brisbane carnival, but he came good and Steven King said let's have a crack at Adelaide, it's close and a good target so we headed that way and paid the $20,000 late entry fee and away we went. It was amazing to get the horse there, meeting new people along the way and it was like a new adventure. It was quite surreal.

JS: What an experience for someone young in years, but also just a baby in terms of training experience. You had your license for a short time?

SR: To me Ascot was always a big achievement and you were always nervous to have a runner there. And then next thing you are based at Flemington, you travel to the other part of Australia, you're saddling horses next to Bart Cummings and all of a sudden you are in group races.

JS: You must have been pinching yourself?

SR: You grow up idolising champion racehorses and you're in a race with champion horses yourself. It's very amazing and very surreal.

JS: You must have to pay a debt of gratitude then to the wisdom and experience of Steven King who after the Bob Hoysted win said have a crack at The Goodwood?

SR: Steve was towards the end of his riding career when I got associated with him, but he obviously knew the drill, knew the horses ability, what sort of races he should target and what he would be capable of being competitive in. It was pretty much between Simon Zahra and Matthew Ellerton where I was staying and Steven King, they all said target Adelaide and you would be silly not to take their advice on. It wasn't on my radar, my radar was Victoria, Sydney and Queensland. It ended up being a great result.

JS: But Thommo almost never made it anyhow because he copped an untimely injury after that race at Caulfield following the Hoysted. He was lucky to get to Adelaide in any instance, regardless of your change of heart.

SR: We don't know if a shoe may have come off but his eye got scratched and he had a couple of weeks where he couldn't open his eye up. He's my horse and like part of my family and we were thinking we might lose him as a racing proposition. We had to trial him at Flemington which was nerve racking to make sure he got around safe. He came out in a 800m trial and I think he won it by 35 lengths and Steven King said he's fine.

JS: Were you able to work the horse at any stage to keep his level of fitness up. There was a month between Caulfield and The Goodwood.

SR: When he had the eye injury he still worked on the treadmill and we swum the horse. We didn't lose much fitness, but it was still touch and go for us, we didn't know whether he would have to spell or how his eye was going to react to the injury, but luckily for us he came good and after the trial we knew he was on song. I just put the pacifiers on as extra protection.

JS: He must have been a pretty resilient sort of galloper. He must have been destined to get to The Goodwood, he had to battle a few hurdles to get there.

SR: We couldn't really get him going until he was four, early prep he did a suspensory, got him going again and he did another suspensory, pretty much his whole life he was injury prone, he had feet problems, so another injury before a big race was part and parcel of having a fast horse. Honestly, if didn't have that suspensory early doors you don't know how far he could have gone and where he should have been. I think he could have been a miler and won better races.

JS: And that courage was borne out winning The Goodwood. Outside draw, pressed forward, tough wide run, but dug in to chase down Tesbury Jack, who was no slouch, on the line in the last stride. Everything was so hard. Real gutsy effort.

SR: Tesbury Jack was a tough frontrunning horse. It took a good horse to get past him. It was a huge run, three wide, no cover, a leader bias, he defeated a lot of the odds and now you look at the honour roll and who has won since, it's a pretty privileged race to win now. A few years later Black Caviar wins it.

JS: Can you remember how you felt and the emotion you experienced when he went past the post first and there was the realisation that you had trained a Group 1 winner?

SR: I had a phone call from a friend in Perth about a minute before the race and I just said, mate, I have to go, I'm gonna win a race, a Group 1. He said are you that confident and I said I don't think we can get beat. Across the line I was pretty much on the fence and said yep we've won this. I've got videos of my family who recorded the race and up in the grandstand they thought he got beat. For some reason before the race, I had this feeling that we were not going to get beat.

JS: It must have been so surreal.

SR: Even now I get goosebumps thinking about the race.

JS: What did he mean to you on a personal level. He achieved so much and put you on the map and on such a wild ride for a period of time.

SR: He passed away last year aged 22. He was buried at my parents farm standing up, looking towards the house, we made a special burial and I've kept some of his hair. Every time you drive into the property you know he's there. You just get a bond with these horses, they are a different breed of horses the Group Ones, the champions and it's what racing is all about. We still love the slow maidens, but obviously are in it for these group horses. I've had one, hopefully around the corner there can be another one.

JS: No matter the future you will forever be tagged a Group 1 winning trainer, they can never take that away from you.

SR: It's always bizarre and a bit surreal. Fingers crossed the WA Boys  go good this weekend, it will be very exciting, especially like Amelia's Jewel and her last start for Simon (Miller). I just got to know her personally from flying the last couple of trips over east and her personality, you have a little bit of a connection there. Hopefully the best horse wins.

JS: You will be just rapt to have one of the two West Aussies win the race.

SR: To go over there and beat them is a great feeling. It's what all West Australians should strive for is to beat the Victorians and the eastern staters.