Winner of the 2011 Grafton Cup, No 8, Warrior Within, jockey Paul Hammersly (purple and green).
Winner of the 2011 Grafton Cup, No 8, Warrior Within, jockey Paul Hammersly (purple and green). Debrah Novak

Warrior Within wins Grafton Cup

GOLD Coast jockey Paul Hammersley has been coming to the Grafton carnival for over a decade….without riding a winner.

Yesterday, Hammersley struck gold big time, piloting Gold Coast-trained bolter Warrior Within to a boilover win in the $150,000 Wykes Tyrepower Grafton Cup (2350m).

It was the second leg of a winning treble for 27-year-old Hammersley who has won over 500 races.

Prepared by Bruce Hill, five-year-old Warrior Within, starting at $26, finished resolutely to deny Grafton born, Melbourne trainer Mark Riley’s Gold In Dubai ($4.20) by three-quarters of a length, thus ending what would have been a fairytale homecoming. Shuffle The Cash ($6) made good ground late for third.

“What a great thrill,” Hammersley said after the gelding‘s upset win. “To come back to Grafton and win a Grafton Cup, one of the great country cups, is fantastic.

“I’m enormously happy.

“I’ve been coming to Grafton since about 2000, had about 30 rides and before today never ridden a winner.”

Trainer Bruce Hill paid tribute to Hammersley and his under rated gelding.

“Paul’s ridden him real good,” the 56-year-old, New Zealand-born trainer said. “He (Hammersley) knows what he wants, does what I want.

“This is probably my best, biggest win. I’ve always had a good opinion of Warrior Within, he’s had a lot of knockers but I’ve always had faith in him.

“He’s had bad luck with barriers and other things.

“Luck finally turned our way today.”

Warrior Within, purchased at a two-year-old breeze-up sale for $60,000, is raced by the Ascot Lodge Racing syndicate headed by major stable supporter Les Cowell. Other owners include Campbell Black and Wade McKibben.

The gelding recorded its ninth win in 45 starts and now earned just over $200,000.

Amazingly, the versatile galloper, who won the Murwillumbah Cup three starts back, has won from 900m to 2350m.

“He won first up over 900m last year on a bog track at the Gold Coast,” Hill recalled. “And we backed him that day too.

“He’s been in work for a fair while, a very tough bugger.

“He’ll probably spell now and we’ll likely nominate him for some good races in Melbourne during the spring.”

Hill first crossed the Tasman in 1980 working with the late Geoff Murphy for eight years and moved to the Gold Coast in 1996 with Gerald Ryan before branching out in his own right in 2007.

For Riley, it was so near yet so far. Riley was ecstatic at Gold In Dubai’s effort but blamed circumstances beyond his control for the defeat.

“My horse tried his heart out,” Riley said. “I couldn’t have had him any better for today. Unfortunately some other riders gave their mounts no chance the way they were ridden.”

Riley and jockey Michael Walker were critical of the tactics employed that saw continuous pressure applied up front.

Well fancied The Verminator ($3.50 favourite) was back with the tailenders throughout but worked home late to finish fourth.

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