Kuru saddles up for Trentham
Aaron Kuru's reputation as a jumps jockey has long since spread beyond our shores but he's hoping the horse who once made him world-famous-for-a-week might provide him with another memorable moment at Trentham on Saturday.
These days based in Victoria and having established himself as one of Australia's premier jumps jockeys, Kuru will return home for Saturday's LJ Hooker Manawatu Steeplechase (4000m) day at Trentham.
His mount in the feature is Des De Jeu, now trained by Jo Rathbone at Wanganui but formerly prepared by Mark Oulaghan when Kuru rode him to one of the most remarkable wins seen on a racetrack.
That was back in June 2018 when Des De Jeu dipped on landing at the first fence in a maiden steeplechase at Awapuni and lost his footing, unseating Kuru, who retained his grip on the reins and in one athletic sweep, threw his legs back over Des De Jeu as he regained his feet and the pair not only continued to race but emerged victorious.
The feat, captured beautifully on Trackside cameras, thrust Kuru and Des De Jeu onto the global stage as the clip went viral, appearing on US network ESPN and on international websites, including the Washington Post, with the common tagline: "the greatest comeback in sport".
Kuru prefers not to dwell on the event but he's hoping Des De Jeu can again claim headlines for success in Saturday's feature steeplechase.
"Looking at what he's been doing over the last couple of years, he's more seasoned now and he's got the hang of it by the looks of things," Kuru said.
"Jo Rathbone got in touch with me, probably a month ago. With Shaun Fannin booked to ride Kevin Myer's horses, she didn't want to get stuck without a rider, so we've stayed in contact. From reports from Jo, he's well."
Mettre En Jeu 10-year-old Des De Jeu has won two of his 12 steeplechase starts and finished second in the 2020 Manawatu Steeplechase under Kuru, who has yet to win the feature.
He was looking forward to not only reuniting with Des De Jeu but also with the Lauren Brennan-trained English Gambler in the Manawatu ITM Awapuni Hurdle (2800m), a race he won in 2018 on Iffitel.
"Both English Gambler and Des De Jeu look nice chances. With English Gambler you know what you're going to get. He's a tricky horse and he's going to put himself into the race," Kuru said.
"It's just whether I can harness him early, control him a bit to help him run the distance. He's a good chance if we can get him to relax. I'm not one who can get horses to relax very well, more one to muscle them down.
"I did a bit of schooling on the horse before I moved to Australia and I liked the horse so I've always followed him. If I can manage him a little bit early, rather than just letting him run, that will be the plan.
"Hopefully we can find a rhythm early and then let him run halfway through the race and hopefully that can work."
Kuru will also ride the Kevin Myers-trained pair of Slomo and Afterallthistime in the maiden hurdle races and the Bill Thurlow-trained Whiskey Tango in the maiden steeplechase.
"Kevin was pretty generous and gave me a couple of maiden hurdle rides and the same with Bill Thurlow with Whisky Tango," he said.
"I always get excited coming home, just to see familiar faces. I love catching up with the trainers and especially back to the jockeys' room, not only the jumping boys but I've got mates among the flat boys too. If I can get back, I always try to."
Kuru enjoyed another successful Warrnambool carnival earlier this month, most notably riding the Symon Wilde-trained Britannicus to his third win in the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m).
"The carnival build-up is so exciting and when you're there, it's just a different world," Kuru said.
"It's pretty easy to get carried away by it but you've got to remember you're there to do your job first and foremost. I had terrific rides going in and I thought they ran up to expectations so I was happy.
"The Grand Annual is an amazing race to ride. The course just flows so nicely. Very much like the Great Northern Steeplechase at Ellerslie, it's just a great race to be part of. Even though I didn't do that well this year, it's just an amazing race to ride in and that's the fun part.
"Britannicus was by far the highlight. He went super and it was a great training performance."