By Adam Hamilton
IGNATIUS’ return to form meant a lot more than just a win for Jimmy Rattray and his team.
It was a real morale boost after a seriously scary and hectic week at his property near Exeter in the NSW Southern Highlands, deep in one of the many regions ravaged by bushfires.
“It came within four kilometres of our place,” Rattray said. “Last Saturday (week) was the scariest. We didn’t get any of the horses out, so we had 35 of them huddled around the main barn as ash was dropping from the sky and the smoke was so thick it was really hard to breath.
“We got them all out the next day, but the conditions improved and we were able to bring them back Monday night and Tuesday.
“They’d only be back a few days when things flared again so badly they issued another warning Friday and we got 25 of the horses out. We kept 10 here because we knew could get them out really quickly if we had to.”
Ignatius was one of the 10 to stay because racing at Menangle last night (Saturday) was vital for him to gain fitness and prove he was worth chasing the $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup with.
And he did just that, working to the front and winning emphatically.
“That’s the best he’s felt in ages,” Rattray said. “He really needed the racing this time to get fit, but last night he travelled well and hit the line feeling very strong.
“The Hunter Cup looks a goer now, I just have to work out whether to give him another lead-up run here or go to Melbourne for a race the week before the Hunter Cup (the Casey Classic, January 25 at Melton).”
While Ignatius is back on song, Rattray the bushfires are still presenting a challenge with his other Hunter Cup hopeful, Harjeet.
“Like Ignatius, he needs racing. He was to race at Goulburn today, but the smoke from the fires rolled-in really thick again and they had to call the meeting off,” he said.
“Hopefully that Goulburn Cup meeting goes ahead next week so he can race there and then we can make the decision on Melbourne.”