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By Graham Potter | Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Jim Byrne and Apache Chase will take up the Stradbroke Handicap challenge for a second successive year on June11 … and Byrne can have a relatively relaxed lead-in to the race this time around after having to survive a gruelling weight loss program last year to secure the ride.

Apache Chase was allocated 49.5kg on that occasion, but connections were happy for Byrne to ride 1kg over and he duly reached that goal, underlining his commitment to stay on the gelding who he has now ridden in all of Apache Chase’s last fourteen starts, going back to March 2021.

This year Apache Chase will carry 55.5kg in the Stradbroke.

Apache Chase’s victory in last Saturday’s Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup was the highlight of an already illustrious career as Apache Chase gave trainer Desleigh Forster her success at the elite level. Jim Byrne had been there before, but it was no less a special occasion for man who has been a top rider in Brisbane for decades.

“I’ve had bigger weekends but not better weekends,” said Byrne.

“It’s held very special because obviously it was Desleigh’s first Group 1. For mine, that was what it was all about first and foremost because I’ve always wanted to win a Group 1 for Desleigh.

‘I’ve had such a long association with her. That probably goes right back to about 2001, or thereabouts.

“I’ve had a lot of luck with her, and I knew if I was ever able to pick up a Group 1 for Desleigh it would be a very special time. To make the weekend even more special, my daughter got engaged, so it was just an amazing time allround.”

The planned progression for Apache Chase from The Archer to the Kingsford-Smith Cup to the Stradbroke has thus gone very much to plan. While the Stradbroke has always been the Grand Final, having a Group 1 already tucked away in the bank is a huge bonus.

Apache Chase gave into the Kingsford-Smith Cup on the back of a close-up second place finish (behind the faster finishing Emerald Kingdom) in the inaugural running of The Archer in Rockhampton in which he jumped as a very strong favourite at $2.70.

“Going into The Archer … it’s always difficult to think that you would just go up there and win,” said Byrne, “even if that was what the betting was suggesting.

“I did know it was going to take a decent horse to beat him … so you are going in with plenty of confidence on the day … but I also knew that he was only eighty percent. That was not his Grand Final. That was his kick off point.

“He missed a trial going into it. We had to take him to give him a gallop, so there was a lot going on with him going into The Archer. In the end he was beaten but, given all the circumstances, it was very good run.”

Next up was the Kingsford-Smith Cup … and this time Apache Chase would not be denied, displaying a combination of speed and courage befitting of a Group 1 winner.

So, it is his speed or his courage that counts the most?

“His courage, I think,” offered Byrne.

“He can run you really good sections. It’s like you are putting pressure on from the three … it’s like, hammer down … let’s go … and his got the courage to stick with it.

“Under those weight-for-age conditions (as in the Kingsford-Smith Cup) it makes it difficult for the others to get to him.

“Last prep we were still trying to teach him to switch down,” said Byrne. “As a three-year-old he wanted to go a little bit fierce, but, have a look at him now. He just walks around the yard and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world.”

And now its on to the Stradbroke!

“Last year I was so confident he was going to give us a huge effort in the Stradbroke I would have cut legs off just to ride him and you could have just basically stapled me to the saddle … so I lost the weight.

‘This year is going to be a lot easier for me. I’m actually going to eat on the day … and obnviously again I think he will give a big effort.

“I’m just grateful to be a part of it all … with the horse who has repaid the faith Desleigh and I have always had in him … with Desleigh, of course, whose professional and personal relationship means a lot to me … and with the owners who have been so good to me. I am really appreciative of their support.”

Apache Chase, who has won nine times from twenty-two starts (Byrne has partnered the son of Better Than Ready in six of those wins, Taylor Marshall was in the saddle the other three times) and who has banked just over $2 million in prize-money, currently shares favouritism for the Stradbroke at $8.

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Photos: Darren Winningham
Photos: Darren Winningham
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