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The spirit of the Light Horses honoured by our Victorian-bred Stayers

Bryce Stanaway and Crafty Cruiser (Colleen Petch)

Trainer Bryce Stanaway was proud as punch of his grand campaigner Crafty Cruiser in the inaugural $300,000 Jericho Cup at Warrnambool. As a gallant runner up to High Mode over the gruelling 4600 metres, it is the longest flat race run in Australia, created in honour of the Lighthorse men and the three-mile race they staged in Jericho, Palestine a century ago.

It seemed the perfect race for war horse Crafty Cruiser, who has covered more ground in his races than a drive from Melbourne to Warrnambool, although according to his trainer Bryce Stanaway the distance was still a bit too short, “as he was ready to keep going, when the others were run off their legs.”

“You’d want the toughest horse in the race to celebrate what those tough horses did and Crafty is the toughest,” Torquay trainer Bryce Stanaway said who revealed that one of his relatives was in the Lighthorse brigade.

“I’d go to war with him. I tell you there wouldn’t be a better horse to have in that situation. He’d be able to carry a few soldiers on his back.”

A wonderful campaigner over many years, Crafty Cruiser now 11-years young, has many racing highlights including his 2013 season with a win in the Ansett Stakes at Mornington, third in the Sandown Cup and fourth in the Geelong Cup and Bart Cummings Stakes.

The son of Good Journey has had an incredible 143 starts for 13 wins, 21 seconds, 15 thirds and prize money just shy of a million with $998,141 earned. He has covered 340,037 metres which works out to be $2.93 in prize money won per metre.

“There was no doubt that he was the best performed horse over 2800 metres in the race, and I can’t believe he was such long odds. Two hundred metres more and he would have been home, he was still full of running while the winner was running on empty.”

Growing up in New Zealand, Stanaway is as tough as his horse. Having left school at 14, he rode in rodeo’s in the summer, and went over the jumps during the winter.

“I arrived in Australia with $1500 in my pocket and I have made a good living out of horses and I love every minute. You could give me a million dollars or the Crown Casino, I wouldn’t change what I have done, the horses are my life.”

Crafty Cruiser was bred at Victoria’s Ealing Park, and was a $10,000 purchase from the Magic Millions sale by his longstanding trainer.

“I wanted to buy some jumpers, so I went up to look at three I was keen on, and all three got pulled out. I was dirty I had wasted a day, so as I was walking out, I saw this lovely headed chestnut colt by Good Journey.”

“I decided I was going to buy that horse, so I snuck up the back of the ring gave myself a $10k limit. Well the hammer fell, and he was mine. It was meant to be.”

Still breeding, it was one of Crafty Cruiser’s wins that paid for Stanaway’s O’Reilly mare, Lady Lorne.

“Mike Moroney paid $190,000 for her, and I got her for $3,000. I sent her to Good Journey and got a bloody nice colt, and she is about to foal down to Trust In A Gust. This year I am sending her and my other two mares to Peter Wilson’s son of Medaglia D’Oro, Dark Cove, who was the fastest horse on turf over 2400 metres in Kentucky.”

Stanaway said a decision on the horse’s future would be made after Crafty enjoys several well-deserved quiet days at his Torquay stable.

“Hopefully they will let him keep racing as he is still in his prime, there is no reason why he should stop just because he is 12 years old. He came back in and wouldn’t have blown a candle out and his legs were massaged and covered with Aloe Vera gel from the hocks down before he left the course. When he walked off that truck, every leg was stone cold. We look after him like royalty.”

“I would love him to go straight into the Bagot, but he has been excluded due to his rating which is a great shame, so we will look at setting him up to come back for next year’s Jericho Cup if they let us.”

“It disappointing as they haven’t given us any staying races that suit him to get his rating up. There is nothing in Victoria worthwhile for the true stayer to race for.”

“His only option coming up is at Cranbourne on the 15th December in a 3000-metre race, but the prizemoney is less than $20,000. They give more money to the maiden runners and here is a grand campaigner who doesn’t need to prove anything.”

And Stanaway, who also finished second in the $40,000 Jericho Cup Repechage over 4000 metres with Ventura Highway, urged Racing Victoria to use the success of the unique feature to bolster Victoria’s staying program.

Genuine staying options for horses like Crafty Cruiser and Ventura Highway were limited, citing next month’s Bagot Handicap over 2800 metres as an example.

“Being a Listed race, horses rated under 65 are balloted out of the Bagot, even though Crafty Cruiser has just run second in a $300,000 Benchmark 90 race. His rating has dropped as he just keeps running in unsuitable races that are too short on hard tracks. It doesn’t make sense,” Stanaway said.

“Full credit needs to go to Bill Gibbons for what he’s done with this race,” he said. Racing Victoria needs to take note of his passion and the success of the Jericho Cup race day.”

“I’d love to see them program a two-mile race every month worth $100,000 or a million-dollar race for Australian and New Zealand stayers during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.”

“If they want us to support the staying stallions in Victoria and breed and train stayers, then they have to start giving us races to run in. It’s frustrating as I love my stayers.”

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