Gillies chasing redemption on Gagarin

Gagarin could help turn around a difficult past seven days for rider Matthew Gillies in tomorrow...
Gagarin could help turn around a difficult past seven days for rider Matthew Gillies in tomorrow's Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton. PHOTO: RACE IMAGES
Rider Mathew Gillies will attempt to end an up-and-down week on a high with Gagarin in tomorrow's Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton.

A fall in one the most insignificant of races of the Grand National carnival - last weekend's maiden steeplechase - left the jockey with concussion.

That meant he missed the winning ride on Kiwi raider Tallyho Twinkletoe in last Sunday's Grand National Hurdle in Victoria, the race that was the main target of the season for injured Otago jumper Jackfrost.

Gillies' fall from El Fernanado also meant he missed Wednesday's Grand National Hurdles meeting. The rider has taken a down-to-earth approach in looking back on his unfortunate past seven days.

"Falling is just part and parcel of being a jumps jockey and I've picked up winning rides through another rider falling and getting injured before - it goes both ways," Gillies told NZ Racing Desk.

The jockey can quickly turn around his miserable week on a high if he can ride the Kevin Myers-trained Gagarin to victory in tomorrow's 5600m feature.

The 11yr-old's wins in the Manawatu Steeples at Awapuni and Wellington Steeples in his past two steeplechasing starts give Gillies the confidence he can win the race.

"Those last two runs have been brilliant," Gillies said.

Gillies attributes the Pentire jumper's excellent recent form to a change of approach to the horse's racing.

"Getting him to settle and come from the back is really working well. I rode him over the hill [at Ellerslie in June] and he pulled the whole way and used himself up.

"I thought after that why not try and settle him back, get him to relax and see if he can have a bit more energy for the last part of the race and it's working really well."

Gagarin meets a smart field in a Grand National Steeplechase headed by early favourite and last year's winner, Shamal.

The pair last clashed in the Waikato Steeplechase in May when Shamal scored by a short neck.

"Shamal won the race last year and he deserves to be favourite but Gagarin nearly beat him at Waikato," Gillies said.

Shamal heads south after beating Saturday's Koral Steeplechase winner, It's A Wonder, in an open steeplechase at Te Rapa.

Despite winning the race, Shamal (69kg) meets It's A Wonder (65kg) closer in the handicaps tomorrow.

There will be just 5kg between the pair, instead of the 9kg that separated them at Te Rapa.

It's A Wonder was a dominant 16-length winner of the Koral Steeplechase.

That margin my be a little flattering as several of his rivals were pulled up or fell.

They included Des De Jeu and Zardetto, who will be looking for a drastic turnaround in fortunes in the Grand National Steeplechase.

Dez and Rosewood, who fought out a thrilling finish in the group 3 Winter Cup last Saturday, will go head to head in tomorrow's Winter Classic.

Rosewood will meet her fellow North Islander 3kg better off in the 1800m open handicap than in last weekend's feature.

She carries 60kg tomorrow after carrying 56.5kg on Sunday.

Dez had a 3.5kg advantage over his main rival with his 53kg winning weight last weekend.

He gets an advantage of just 0.5kg on Rosewood tomorrow with his 59.5kg handicap.


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