Old Gem comes good

Long-range plans to make former West Australian stayer Daka’s Gem a jumper may be permanently shelved after he broke through for his first Victorian win in the Ballarat Cup.

The nine-year-old defied his age and denied Sentire a second Ballarat Cup win when he gunned him down in the last 20 metres to win by a half-length with Bendigo Cup winner Banana Man a long neck away third.
Trainer David Brideoake is now deciding whether he should aim Daka’s Gem at the Perth Cup on New Year’s Day or target a more ambitious Sydney-Brisbane Cup campaign next year.
“He’s an older horse, runs a trip, and loves the soft tracks so we have got to put those things together and come up with the best plan,” Brideoake said.
The winner of 15 races, Daka’s Gem was one of Western Australia’s leading stayers with his best win a dead-heat with Scenic Shot at weight-for-age in the 2006 Group Two Cox Stakes (2400m).
He also ran fifth in that race last year before he fell in the Perth Cup.
Owners Geoff and Heather Nicholls have monitored Brideoake’s career with interest and after Grand Journey won the West Australian Oaks-Derby double earlier this year they sent him Daka’s Gem for a country Cups campaign in Victoria.
“Daka has always been on my radar more as a jumper for the future but he came to me because of his flat form,” Brideoake said.
The Ballarat Cup win on Wednesday followed his fourth in the Warrnambool Cup in May while last month he was fourth in the Moe Cup and sixth in the Werribee Cup.
“He is just one of those horses that needed an ounce of luck,” Brideoake said.
Brideoake blamed wide gates and bad luck in running for the gelding’s losing run which looked like continuing again today when he was caught midfield in a traffic jam rounding the home turn.
Jockey Peter Mertens, who won the 1992 Ballarat Cup on Ahora, said he doubted he would get his second win when Sentire opened up what appeared a winning break halfway up the straight.
“I was still trying to get through traffic but when I got between a couple of horses he really lengthened in the last furlong (200m),” Mertens said.
Brideoake was thrilled with the win after he nearly won the 2005 Ballarat Cup with Maneroo Lue who was beaten in photo-finish by Command ‘N’ Conquer.
Sentire would have been the first horse since Warri Symbol (1982-83) to win the Ballarat Cup in successive years and jockey Craig Williams was proud of the horse’s effort.
“He was gallant in defeat,” Williams said.

By Robert Windmill