By David Nagel
Heavy rains – that almost called a halt to the cup meeting at his home track – turned into a perfect storm for Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths after the popular local claimed his first home-town cup success with King Magnus on Saturday.
The $500,000 Listed TAB Cranbourne Cup (1600m), the first Saturday edition of the race, and the richest cup ever, turned into a celebration for Griffiths, who now trains in partnership with Mathew de Kock.
Griffiths has been a familiar face at Cranbourne for 30 years, when a young jockey decided to dip his toes into the training ranks after rising weight became a burden on his riding career.
Griffiths trained his first winner in 1992 – Go Raami – and won his first Group-1 in 2016 when The Quarterback won the Newmarket Handicap.
But you get the feeling that Saturday’s win ranks right alongside that Group-1 in terms of importance.
“This is big, this is very special because to win your hometown cup, especially this year, the inaugural running of the TAB Cranbourne Cup, in our first year as a partnership, it’s very, very special,” Griffiths said post-race.
“Neil Bainbridge (Cranbourne Turf Club CEO) and the team have done a fantastic job so it’s very special.”
King Magnus, a six-year-old gelding out of Magnus/Influential Miss, was having just his second start in heavy going, running last of 13 the only time he had stepped out on heavy ground at Sandown in June this year.
But King Magnus has been a model of consistency since then, finishing top two in six of his eight starts since that poor effort at Sandown, that came after putting on a buck-jumping display.
Jockey Lachlan King settled King Magnus midfield, but made a sweeping run around the home turn to emerge as a leading contender.
King Magnus dug deep in the home straight, surging with 100-metres to run to hold off the late efforts of race-favourite Our Playboy, with So Si Bon back in third.
Griffiths said King Magnus will now have a well-deserved break before possibly being targeted at a huge prize in the autumn.
“He’s going to have a break now, we spoke to Greg Carpenter (Handicapper) the other day about nominating him for the All-Star Mile,” Griffiths said.
“Whether he’s good enough I’m not sure, but he’ll have a lot of backing, people will follow him, that’s for sure.”
Saturday’s meeting was almost abandoned before the first race, with three leading riders inspecting the track after unseasonal heavy rains had the track teetering on a heavy-10 rating.
But the rains, that had caused so much damage later in the week, finally eased to allow the program, which carried a record $1.6million in prizemoney, to proceed.