It’s now six days since The Ride.
Racing scribes and commentators have almost exhausted their supply of superlatives in waxing lyrical about Jamie Kah’s miracle win on Vega One last Saturday.
It’s been called “unbelievable”, “magical” and “a dream”, while Kah has been labelled “Wonder Woman”.
Even this morning TAB Radio was still reflecting on the breathtaking finish to the Kingsford-Smith Cup at Eagle Farm, with Queensland racing identity Michael Maxworthy marvelling about Kah’s willingness to “put that horse into a very narrow gap”.
“She did it without a second thought – it was raw instinct,” he said.
“We’ll talk about Vega One and Jamie Kah for a long while.”
But how did the 25-year-old conjure her sixth Group 1 win – and was the ride really that special?
Former jockey, 40-year industry veteran and current trainer and assessor at Skillinvest, Darryn Murphy, got to know Kah – often passing on feedback – while she was still riding in her hometown of Adelaide, and kindly agreed to dissect the Kingsford-Smith ride, at Racing SA’s request.
“Watching it live, like everyone else I thought ‘Wow, where did that come from?’,” he said.
“But then immediately I thought, ‘That’s just what Jamie does.”
In the days since the win, it has emerged that trainer Tony Gollan gave Kah zero instructions on Vega One – which only got clear inside the final 75 metres and sprouted wings to claim victory – and that connections consider the horse possesses just a “short sprint”.
After viewing the replay multiple times, Murphy says from the jump Kah’s theory was to ride the horse first, and the race second.
“The horse drew an awkward barrier and obviously Jamie’s intention was to let the speed go and have it settle at the rear,” he said.
“But I could tell from the 600m that Jamie knew exactly where everyone was and who was in front of her.
“So firstly, this is what she didn’t do: She didn’t come out to be the widest runner because she knew it was going to be a big task to loop the field.
“So, she stayed in and thought ‘I’ve got to find my way through’.”
Halfway up the straight Vega One’s hopes looked shot, trapped behind a wall of gun sprinters.
“There was actually a run presented, but she got slightly baulked by Mark Du Plessis on Victorem,” Murphy noted.
“She went to go to the outside of that horse, but he came out to improve, so she momentarily had to change course.”
In lesser hands, that necessity may have ended Vega One’s winning chances, but Murphy says Kah’s natural talent allowed her to instead make her winning move.
“Jamie’s so beautifully balanced and skilful that she didn’t lose ground doing it, she didn’t tear, she just changed direction,” he said.
“There was nothing drastic about it, she just found her way, there was no check and it was just magnificent to watch.
“Changing direction at top speed is nowhere near as easy as it looks and that’s where that smoothness comes into it.
“A jockey who lacked the composure at that vital time may have overreacted.”
Once Vega One saw clear air, he rushed to the line and such was the horse’s momentum the winning margin was an astonishing half a length.
Murphy acknowledged that luck played a factor in the win, but noted skill had the major say.
“A few strides after she changed direction, the run presented and she darted through,” he said.
“There’s an ounce of luck involved there, but the rider had the awareness to read the horses’ movements in front of her.
“When a rider with Jamie Kah’s skill is looking for a run in front of them, they’re all over what’s laying out and what’s laying in, and that’s where they put themselves,” he said.
“They’re the things you can’t teach. You can talk about it, but it’s different when you’re on their backs.
“Jamie is one of the most composed athletes you’d see in the heat of the moment and that’s what wins her so many races.”
Murphy says Kah’s balance and feel are keys to her success.
“Horses wouldn’t know they’re carrying weight with Jamie Kah on,” he said.
“She simplifies things and probably rides a lot by feel.
“But horses – like Vega One – just go so kind for her.”
While Murphy said Kah is clearly among the elite in Australian riding ranks, he is loath to compare her to other greats at the moment.
“We’ve got so many outstanding riders and trainers in Australia at the moment and I’m just in awe of their talent,” he said.
“Damian Lane, Damien Oliver, the list goes on. Plus we’ve got some wonderful jockeys here in South Australia too.”