WEDNESDAY: April 26, 2023: EDWARD O’Rourke got the Hawkesbury monkey off his back not once but twice at Kembla Grange today – and nearly for a third time.
The expatriate Irishman relocated from Murwillumbah last year to continue his training career at Hawkesbury, and had only 13 starters for four placings from his new base until he took four horses – all of them for Ramsey Pastoral Pty Ltd - to Kembla for the midweek meeting.
He landed a double with favorites Kunnese ($2.50) and Iron Man ($1.50), and both three-year-olds did it in style, scoring by five and a half lengths and three and a quarter lengths respectively.
Then Princess Mary ($3.50 second favorite) went within a whisker of downing $1.70 favorite The Englishman in the Maiden Plate (1500m), and not even a protest lodged by O’Rourke alleging interference to his filly over the last 100m could clinch him a treble.
Nonetheless, O’Rourke headed home delighted to be back in the winning list, and is looking forward to building on his two wins during the remainder of the season.
He was especially pleased to get success for prominent studmaster Stuart Ramsey (Turangga Farm), who is the major supporter of his Hawkesbury stable.
Rachel King was aboard both winners, and so was leading Northern Rivers jockey Ben Looker when O’Rourke prepared his previous double (Zavy’s Hope and Managua) at Grafton on August 31, 2020.
“I felt we were a bit unlucky not to get the protest, but nonetheless it was still a pretty good day,” O’Rourke said before leaving for the return trip home.
Kunnese, at only his second start, trounced his rivals in the Midway 3YO Maiden Handicap (1000m), confirming the ability his trainer considered he possessed.
“Unfortunately, he pulled up with the thumps after his debut at Hawkesbury on April 1,” O’Rourke said.
“He is only the second runner of his sire Better Land (who won four races and was runner-up to Giga Kick’s sire Scissor Kick in the 2014 Listed Rosebud at Royal Randwick).
“His first Outback Action won at The Valley last September and again at Mornington last Saturday.
“I’ve always felt Kunnese had a fair bit of ability, and it was good to see him win so impressively today.
“The same with Iron Man (who broke through in the Provincial 3YO Maiden Handicap, 1300m at only his fourth start).
“He ran second on debut at Rosehill Gardens last September and then second again at Newcastle on March 3 when resuming.
“He got sick after that race, and it put us back about a week and a half with him.
“I knew he would take improvement from his fourth at home on April 13, and there will be even more improvement from today’s race.
“But mentally he is still six months away. He has a good turn of foot and picked them up in a few strides today, then thought he had done his job and ducked out abruptly.
“Thankfully, Rachel got him going again.”
O’Rourke is eyeing a city assignment on the Kensington track in a fortnight, with a Brisbane trip for Iron Man not out of the question if he races up to expectations.
A gelded son of Exosphere, his dam Sequential Charm won the Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1600m) at Eagle Farm in 2007.
Whilst Princess Mary went under, and has now been runner-up at her only two starts, O’Rourke has high hopes with the Dissident three-year-old.
“That was her first run since mid-November, and she will take a lot of improvement from today’s race,” he said.
“There’s a possibility she could still go to Brisbane in the coming weeks.”
The O’Rourke double lifted Hawkesbury trainers to one win shy of 150 for the current season.