JOCKEY Mark Khan doesn’t look as perfectly fluent on a horse as he did when he was Champion Jockey before his retirement, but all his skills will return in due course with more race riding.
That Khan managed to win Saturday’s competitive Gr1 SA Derby over 2450m after only a week back in the saddle following injury, attests to his belief in himself and his gritty talent – he kept the rank outsider Hero’s Honour going strongly to win the prestigious classic and in the process made a dream come true for two owners in the partnership.
Bruce Gardner has bred Gr1 winners – including yesterday’s Triple Tiara contender Takingthepeace who was born from Bruce and wife Jo’s mare Lisa Anne – but he’d never before owned one himself. Laurence Wernars, one of the biggest owners in the land, finally cracked a major after dozens of Grade 2s and Gr3s. Both were on course and delighted to lead in Hero’s Honour with another part-owner and long-time colour-holder, Greg Sadie.
Gardner said: “Laurence put this partnership together very quickly and professionally and I am very glad for him. Thanks to Mark Khan, who has made one of the comebacks of the century!”
Trainer Gary Alexander was equal in his praise for Khan, saying: “I queried Mark’s fitness when I gave him the ride and he said, ‘Don’t worry Gary I won’t let you down. This shows what a professional he is. We go back many years, we won the Derby together in 2002 with Timber Trader.”
Alexander added: “Well done to Mick Goss and his team at Summerhill, we keep getting good horses from them.”
Khan said: “I’ve won three previous Derby’s, but this one is special. There were people who said that I wouldn’t recover to return again, but I did my best. It was a wonderful win, I am blessed.”
Summerhill Stud lost Hero’s Honour sire Await The Dawn a few years ago, but there was always going to be fireworks from his one-and-a-bit crops, including Big Bear and now the Derby winner. Hero’s Honour was bred from the Galileo mare Grail Maiden, herself a four-time winner and Listed-placed in the Kenilworth Oaks.