The Jerilderie Letter became famous just 18 years after the first running of the Melbourne Cup and it could once again have links with Australia’s famous race 137 years later.
Although Tasmanian trainer Adam Trinder dare not dream about such lofty heights with the thoroughbred he bought for just $11,000, Jerilderie Letter will be given the chance to prove his worth when he hits the mainland early next month.
By the imported stallion Bushranger, he is Tasmania’s most promising (and best-named) stayer and his victory in February in the Tasmanian Derby over subsequent SA Derby winner Howard Be Thy Name reinforces the theory that he could measure up to the elite stayers in the land as a four-year-old this spring.
The original Jerilderie Letter was penned in 1879 by Ned Kelly, who wrote it in an attempt to justify the killing of three policemen at Stringybark Creek in Victoria in October 1878. Kelly gave the letter to a Jerilderie bank accountant with directions for him to have it published in the local paper.
The thoroughbred Jerilderie Letter, who won six of his first seven starts before a spell, made his return to the races on Sunday at Devonport, but although he tasted a rare defeat, his trainer, Trinder, was far from disappointed.
‘’He bombed the start and then made a mid-race move and then still a progressive move wide from the 600 which left him very vulnerable but the run in itself was quite sound and we’re happy he’s come back,’’ Trinder said.
The former champion jumps rider said the defeat had not changed any plans to send Jerilderie Letter across to the mainland to test his mettle.
‘’We’ll head to Melbourne in the near future and then we’ll assess it where he fits in – whether we’ve got a very nice horse for the summer carnival here in Tasmania or whether he could potentially slot into a race in the spring carnival in Victoria,’’ Trinder said.
‘’He’s still up for assessment. We are still learning about him but whichever way it goes, we think we’ve got an exciting preparation ahead of us.
‘’We’ve been looking at the three-year-old company (in Melbourne) over the past five or six weeks and I think he’s definitely Saturday class there at the moment. Whether he’s the next ratings band I don’t know, but they all find their own level and that’s why we are going to experiment with him and see where he fits in.’’
Trinder said Jerilderie Letter might have a memorable name but he is hardly a stand-out type.
‘’You’d have walked past this horse every time at the sales. He was far, far from correct. His leg placement isn’t ideal but he gallops alright,’’ Trinder said.
‘’You could probably underrate him to a certain extent because he’s never won a race by a big margin because it’s not in the horse’s demeanour.
‘’He’s never ever going to put a race away by three or four lengths as he’s quite a reserved little horse and only does as much as he needs to get the job done so I trust that as we keep lifting the bar, he can keep coming up with it at least to Saturday company and we’ll see how far he goes after that.’’
Trinder said that the combination of the horse’s name and his racetrack deeds have forged something of a following with Tasmanian racing fans.
‘’He does have a good following but more so off the back of his record rather than anything else,’’ the trainer said. ‘’I personally observed there were several people who were not associated with the horse who just came to see Jerilderie Letter which was good to see from a racing perspective.
‘’You get the feeling at times that those days are going. Racing’s very commercialised and very betting-orientated but people came out yesterday down to the stripping sheds just to enjoy the horse and I took great satisfaction and pride out of it.’’
The horse’s name is associated with one of Australia’s greatest figures and his owners too bear a real Australian background. Trinder explained that among his owners are a Queen’s Counsel, an ex-bookmaker and man who mows lawns for the local council, along with a trucking company owner that delivers beer to the bottle shop.
So involved are they in the horse’s racing career, they recently knocked back a $400,000 offer from Hong Kong.
‘’We then put a syndicate together for him and they are really enjoying the ride and they wish to continue to enjoy the ride win, lose or draw even if they don’t win another race. They love him. They knocked back a big offer from Hong Kong because they just want to enjoy the horse which is really pleasing.’’
Even if his horse may not be, Trinder is certainly bred to win.
His grandfather Ray owned and trained Piping Lane before sending him to Victoria and to the late George Hanlon, who famously won the 1972 Melbourne Cup with him.
Trinder’s father Michael was a jumps superstar. He won four Hiskens Steeplechases when they were run at Moonee Valley among a number of feature jumps victories on the mainland.
Trinder himself was also in racing’s spotlight as a jumps rider. He won the Grand National Hurdle in 2009 on Desert Master; the 2010 Grand National Steeplechase on Morsonique in 2010 and he also scored in two Hiskens Steeplechases – most famously aboard his father’s horse Misty Weather, who scored by 25 lengths in 2003.