‘Ready by Design’ under lights tonight at Moonee Valley.
Published 16 November 2023
When Rockhampton horse trainer Jared Wehlow purchased a seven-year-old nondescript sight unseen gelding from an online auction in April for a meagre $5000, never in his wildest dreams would he have expected to horse would take him to race under lights at Moonee Valley, Melbourne.
That “Cinderella” ride involving a segmented 2600km float trip from Rockhampton with Jared behind the wheel for 31 hours comes to a climax on Friday night when bargain buy Ready By Design contests a $60K marathon race.
Ready By Design, a very dour horse, will contest the Road To The Jericho Cup Heat over 3850m.
A win would assure him a place in the final, the iconic $304K Jericho Cup (4600m), the longest race in Australia, which is run at Warrnambool on Sunday, December 3.
The race is staged to honour the Australian Light Horsemen and their Whaler horses that fought so bravely in World War 1 (1914-1919) in the Middle East and staged a mock race meeting in the desert named the Jericho Cup on the eve of a major winning battle against the Turks.
Jared Wehlow soon realised that he had acquired a stayer in Ready By Design, confirmed by his two wins for the stable at Mackay (2000m) and Beaudesert (2450m) which put him on a course aimed for the Jericho Cup at Warrnambool.
Accordingly, he floated Ready By Design (won $41,550 in nine starts for Wehlow) back to Beaudesert on November 4 to contest a Jericho Cup Qualifying Heat (3090M) in the hope he could win, and both could continue on their epic journey.
Ready By Design didn’t but considering that his close third beaten just over a half-length was a gutsy effort under the circumstances as how the race was run, Wehlow decided to press on with his Jericho Cup plans.
“I thought why not go on for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are no suitable races for him in Central and North Queensland, but they run the longer races regularly in Victoria. It didn’t make any sense to bring him back to Rocky. As well, the other two owners apart from me, the Irishmen, Mark and Brian Walsh live in Melbourne and that’s where Ready By Design will do his future racing. He is also going to be schooled as a hurdler. We were all keen to give him his chance to make it into the Jericho Cup and if not, maybe he could make the consolation race if they put one on this year. I know it all sounds and I suppose is left field, but it is probably a once in a lifetime thing, so we pressed on “, Jared said.
Indeed, Jared and Ready By Design did just that – press on!
Next part of the adventure involved a seven-hour float trip from Beaudesert to Tamworth for a stopover before eight and a half hours drive down the 712km track to Wagga Wagga for some well-deserved R&R.
After another segment involving a six-hour road trip, Jared and his travelling companion Ready By Design reached their temporary Victoria working holiday billings at trainer William Morrisey’s property at Ballarat just 110km from Mooney Valley.
“It is a beautiful set-up, and the horse is really enjoying it. We have engaged an Irish jockey Luke Dempsey who rides over the hurdles and has come highly recommended. They say he is a first class but hasn’t had a lot of opportunities in Australia yet. Anyhow that suits me”, Jared said.
The anti-clockwise style of racing in Victoria won’t phase the much travelled Ready By Design as in an earlier life he won a Benalla (Vic) Maiden (2040m).
After that he raced successfully in NSW winning at Gosford, Tamworth and Port McQuarie over middle distances.
“We’ll know on Friday night if he can run the distance (3850m) and go on towards the Jericho Cup (4600m) in a few weeks’ time. If he does, I’ll stay on down here until after that race before driving back home to Rocky”, Jared said.
The certainty is Ready By Design is finally back home to stay in Victoria where he kicked off being educated in 2019 by Darren Weir before commencing his racing career on a winning note at Wangaratta for trainer Anthony Freedman.
Akin to many of the courageous Australian Light Horsemen who wore Emu feathers in their slouch hats, it is a feather in the cap for Jared Wehlow just to have planned and embraced the Jericho Cup assault.
Let’s just hope the proverb “fortune favours the brave” rides alongside Jared and Ready By Design in Melbourne on Friday night.