Todd Pannell says winning his first Group 1 race, aboard Despatch in last year’s Goodwood, was a watershed moment in his career.
“I was happy just to get a ride in the race and grateful that (trainer) Tony McEvoy put me on,” he said.
“And I was thrilled to get the monkey off my back in a Group 1 race.
“Afterwards it actually took a while to sink in, but I was pretty rapt with it.”
As you might expect, Todd has a vivid recollection of the race, which saw Despatch – which started around 20/1 – set the pace, kick clear, then fend off the swoopers, including a late surge from fellow South Aussie runner Behemoth.
“I had an easy lead during the race and a couple of easy sectionals,” he said.
“The horse was doing it pretty comfortably in front, and I felt like I’d be in with a good chance straightening.
“In that last 50 metres I could see something coming. I saw Behemoth really late… and maybe he should’ve won the race.
“But we were able to fight off the challenges up the straight and get over the line, and having that easy run helped.”
Todd’s win was his first and – to date – only association with Despatch, which had been in tremendous form in South Australia leading up to the state’s most prestigious race. Todd wonders whether an unexpected delay before the race might have helped Despatch show his best in the Goodwood.
“I think it might have been Spright that lost a shoe or something behind the gates,” he said.
“But the longer we waited behind the gates the better Despatch got. He got quieter, calmer and more relaxed.
“By the time we got in the barriers it was the best he’d been.
“But he’d put the writing on the wall before the Goodwood that he was going to run well.”
Todd’s win aboard Despatch helped him secure the prestigious John Letts Medal last season as the SA’s most outstanding jockey. This season he has a clear lead on the metropolitan jockeys’ premiership table, and recently had a lucky escape from a race fall at Morphettville.
The 35-year-old looks back on last year’s Goodwood as a significant moment in his career.
“It was definitely a turning point in my career. It was great to get one,” he said.
“But two seasons riding for Will Clarken – that’s been a big change in my career too.
“I’ve ridden a lot of winners for him… and I reckon that’s been as bigger kick-along as anything.
“At the moment I’m having plenty of luck, getting some winners, and getting plenty of rides and support from trainers.
“I’m being offered the better rides, which is a big thing in racing. You have to get on good horses to ride the winners.”
Todd has since landed his second Group 1, aboad the Clarken stable’s Bella Vella in the TAB Classic (Sangster Stakes).