Robert Thompson drives The Jackal home to win a second Ramornie Handicap.
Robert Thompson drives The Jackal home to win a second Ramornie Handicap. The Daily Examiner

The million-dollar Ramornie legend

THE Jackal, also known by his stable nickname Henry, holds an enviable place in Clarence River Jockey Club history.

The Tamworth gelding, a son of Bite The Bullet, won two Ramornie Handicaps for his Tamworth owner/trainer Paul St Vincent with leading Australian jockey Robert Thompson aboard both times.

After winning the Group2 Healey Stakes at Eagle Farm in 2007, he went to Grafton and won that year's Ramornie as a race favourite.

Paul St Vincent and a rugged-up Henry (The Jackal) in Tamworth on a cold and sunny morning.
INSET: Robert Thompson drives The Jackal home to win a second Ramornie Handicap.
Paul St Vincent and a rugged-up Henry (The Jackal) in Tamworth on a cold and sunny morning. INSET: Robert Thompson drives The Jackal home to win a second Ramornie Handicap. Geoff Newling

Twelve months later he was back and notched a second successive Ramornie in race and track record time with one of the most devastating wins in race history.

He became just the fifth horse to win two Ramornie Handicaps - Cuban Song won four in a row in the 1930s.

The Jackal's performances were so uplifting that the Clarence River Jockey Club named an annual sprint race, The Jackal Flying Handicap.

Clarence River Jockey Club chief executive officer Michael Beattie said the club had two races named in honor of dual Ramornie winners, The Jackal and Credit Again, and is thinking they should also honour High Classic, Develop, Travatore and Cuban Song in the same fashion.

High Classic won two Ramornies in the 1980s, Develop won in 1970 and 1971 and finished second to Ron Martin's Docket in 1972, Travatore won two in the 1950s and Cuban Song won four in a row in the 1930s.

PAUL St Vincent bought The Jackal for just $20,000 at a Magic Millions Sale because of his dam, Positive Surprise.

"I had a horse out of the same mare and I trained for Gerry (Harvey) and he was by a staying horse," StVincent said.

"He'd showed me quite a bit and, when I went back through Henry's pedigree, I saw nothing out of a sprinting horse. He was by Bite The Bullet, big and strong and athletic, so I thought I'd give him a go."

The son of Bite The Bullet won 15 of his 74 starts with 16 placings and $1,070,810 in prizemoney.

Two of those wins were in the 2007 and 2008 Ramornie Handicaps, the famous 1200m sprint on the Wednesday of the annual July Racing Carnival at the Clarence River Jockey's Club Grafton track. They were special wins by a Tamworth-trained-and-owned horse who had a large following.

Henry won on six tracks, two at his home Tamworth track, twice at nearby Scone as well as scoring four times at Eagle Farm, including the Healey Stakes, five at Rosehill and the Prime Minister's Cup at the Gold Coast.

His last win was the Quirindi Lightning in February 2013. But his two Ramornie wins remain in the memory as special.

"He got beaten by a nose at Doomben," StVincent remembered.

"One of Bryan Guy's horses led and we were back last but rattled home and ran some enormous sectional for the final 600m. Everyone was talking about a Stradbroke for sure."

However, when the Stradbroke arrived, it was a heavy track and the Tamworth gelding couldn't go an inch on a soft, or worse, track.

"Timmy Martin (Sydney trainer who won the Grafton Cup) came over to me and said 'don't worry, he'll win his next start for sure'," StVincent said.

"That was the Healey and then he went to the Ramornie as favourite and just came out and won like all good horses do. I remember him walking around the parade ring as if he owned it and like he was just back at home."

That's how relaxed The Jackal was.

Twelve months on and he returned to deliver one of the most dominant wins seen at Grafton.

"Robert (Thompson) was trying to hold him at the 400m but he just wanted to run," the trainer said.

It was a sensational win after missing the jump slightly and being second last.

St Vincent rates it "probably his best win".

"He got the run," he said simply of a

brilliantly simple ride by Robert Thompson, who never went around a horse but led entering the turn.

"If he got held up, he couldn't finish but

when he got the right race (with speed on) and got out he was right. Ran 1min 8.02secs as well."

ROBERT Thompson turned 61 the other day.

By that stage he'd ridden 4404 winners in Australia, the most by any jockey.

Not bad for a kid from Cessnock who started out as a 14-year-old apprentice to Norm Collins.

Romantic Dream will always be the best horse he's ridden and will forever remain in such a high esteem for winning his first two of seven Group1s and beating superstars such as Family Of Man and Surround.

He has more than just an affectionate spot for The Jackal, a horse who beat some of the best sprinters in the land.

Thompson also loves riding at Grafton during the annual carnival.

He won a Grafton Cup for his father (Arthur) aboard My Star Sapphire in 1982 and won two Gosford Cups on the same horse the next two years.

After The Jackal won the 2007-2008 Ramornies, Thompson also claimed another two on Youthful Jack (2013) and Big Money (2014).

Youthful Jack's win was particularly pleasing for him as it was for his good mate Ross Stitt, who also won a Launceston Cup aboard Precise Timing in 2006.

"They are great memories," Robert said at Tamworth a few days after his 61st recently.

"He was a big, long-striding horse, had to give him plenty of room," he said of The Jackal.

"Other horses used to take three or four strides to his one. The main thing with him was he needed a hard track and fast pace. If he got that, he was pretty dangerous."

Robert didn't just win two Ramornies with him, he also won a Star Kingdom Stakes at Rosehill and a Healey Stakes at Eagle Farm.

"That was a big win at Eagle Farm," he recalled.

However, his second Ramornie success on Henry stands out.

That day they missed the kick a little and was back second last but Thompson saved ground by taking inside runs and, by the turn, had forced his way to the front.

He took a two-length lead entering the straight and won by 2.5 lengths.

It was a race and track record that stood for a number of years.

Stewards could use the video of the race as a teaching tool for apprentices to show them how easily it can be done.

AIDEN St Vincent is now a trainer at Coffs Harbour. He grew up in Tamworth and is possibly the lankiest trackwork rider.

He rode The Jackal in some of his workouts and remembers a great-natured gelding who could be a handful when he chose.

"He was a big baby early on but matured well as he got older," he said.

"Always had a great nature but didn't put his hand up straightaway.

"Once he figured it out he was right."

Aiden's brother, Kane, was the main work rider for The Jackal, something Aiden didn't mind.

"Kane was the number one rider," he said.

"There was always a fair bit of pressure on so I didn't mind he had the job," he said with a laugh.

The Jackal had an unusual action. While he took an enormous stride, he threw his front near leg almost like a cycle in a washing machine.

"It was ungainly," Aiden said.

"But he just wanted to use every bit of strength he had and tried so hard.

"It was how he raced, you couldn't hold him up.

"He wanted to go and if he got running room he was hard to beat."

That's how he won the Prime Minister's Cup at the Gold Coast; sat three wide and ran his opponents into the ground.

Gold Coast racecaller Steve Hawkins remembers that day well.

"He sat three wide and won well, it was a marvellous effort," he recalled.

"I think the big fella called it Herculean," Paul StVincent laughed about Hawkins' race call.

"It was extraordinary."

The Healey Stakes win at Eagle Farm was something similar.

"He was phenomenal that day," Aiden said. "Covered ground but mowed them down."

He watched that race at the Family Hotel in Tamworth in company with this journalist. They almost heard us cheering from Eagle Farm.

One interesting story about The Jackal was his nickname, Henry. Young racing steward Sam Woolaston was credited with assigning The Jackal with his Henry title.

"Sam used to call everyone Cyril or Henry, we already had a Cyril in our stable so he got Henry," Aiden said. "It wasn't early on, probably when Henry was about three or so."

He was a "unique" horse, Aiden said. Paul StVincent agreed.

"He was a big horse. Weighed 602/3/4kg when he was at his best and stood 16.2 hands. Massive. You'd put him on a float to take him to Brisbane and you'd get there and wouldn't have even known he was there. Step off the float as easy as pie.

"He did have a great nature. He was a horse to die for."

THESE days The Jackal, rising 17, is the king of his paddock at Paul and Therese StVincent's Impala Estate Road house and 16ha on the outskirts of Tamworth.

Well fed, he lounges around with 25 year-old Western Dale for fun.

"He (Western Dale) was pretty handy too. Won 11 races, finished second 18 times and third 12 times. Won almost $110,000 and got beaten a nose a heap of times. He just follows Henry around, they have a great time."

St Vincent trained some talented horses other than The Jackal. The likes of Western Dale, Coonamble Cup winner Knight Tides, Trodonnant, Walcha Maiden winner Lady Grosve, Trinity and Leica Cat.

"Roulette Kite won three in town for us," he said. "Bally Moreen was a real rogue but had a heap of ability."

Having the luck, fortune and determination to buy The Jackal was a life-changer, as was meeting legendary Tamworth trainer Merv Corliss.

"I owe it all to Merv," StVincent said. "He asked me to teach him how to play golf and I asked him to teach me how to train horses."

Corliss, who died last year, certainly fulfilled his part of the bargain. - OT



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