Alors que son premier succès avait soulevé quelques interrogations au sein de la communauté des turfistes, Esteco est venu répondre de la meilleure façon qui soit à tous ses détracteurs en se montrant à nouveau irrésistible au finish pour signer sa deuxième victoire d’affilée samedi dernier. Il permet ainsi à Peter Hall de quitter le pays sur une note victorieuse, l’Australien devant regagner l’île continent pour subir une intervention chirurgicale en semaine.
La qualité, et non la quantité avait été privilégiée par l’entraînement Jean-Michel Henry pour le compte de la 10e journée avec seulement quatre partants engagés, Hillbrow étant, lui, confié à Goomany dans la grande course. Et non des moindres, serait-on tenté de dire avec Papa Joe, Esteco et Right To Tango, tous susceptibles de faire parler la foudre. Au final, c’est Esteco qui a permis au tandem Hall-Henry de tirer son épingle du jeu, synonyme de sixième victoire cette saison. Le jockey titulaire, que nous avons rencontré en fin d’après-midi samedi dernier, n’a pas boudé son plaisir même s’il aurait préféré signer une deuxième victoire avec Papa Joe.
« To be honest, I had three good chances coming into this meeting. I’m half-happy with Esteco’s win but we came away with a win, a second and a third. I would have been delighted to bag at least two winners. However, it’s important for our horses to have their first outing for us to be able to assess their improvement but we were still confident with Papa Joe today. All of the stable’s horses have improved after their first run and he ran a great race. So we’re certainly looking forward to his next one », nous a déclaré Peter Hall.
On se souvient que la course à laquelle devait participer le sprinter avait été annulée à deux reprises, mais son cavalier a refusé d’y voir une quelconque incidence sur sa prestation. « He had lost a bit of weight during the off season but we had been preparing him for three races. Unfortunately two got cancelled and the last time his jockey fell off him on Thursday morning prior to his first run. He was fit and ready to run today though and I don’t think the top weight really made any difference because the leader was just too good today ».
Au sujet de son gagnant, l’Australien espère maintenant qu’on arrêtera de douter de ses capacités après sa brillante confirmation. « Esteco had another great run. He’s racing fantastic right now. It was almost a carbon copy of his first win and I was very happy for him because the last time he won at an epic price ( Rs 4 000) and everybody was saying he could not do it again but he did. It’s now two in a row for him and people will probably start to love him now. I reckon he can go further provided he races at the back of the field and comes off the pace ».
« I did not trust Anand Bundhoo’s horse… »
La tactique employée avec Right To Tango dans l’épreuve de clôture laissa en revanche bien des observateurs perplexes mais notre interlocuteur a tenu à s’en expliquer. « I needed the rail with Right To Tango and it did not work out that way. I had to play with the cards that were dealt. Straight Jab got the lead and I thought I would go in second to keep an eye on him. I wanted to have cover because he’s a better horse when he races like that but I also wanted to keep up with the leader. However, I did not trust Anand Bundhoo’s horse (Illusionaire) as I doubted he would carry me. I did consider sitting fourth on the rail but I did not like his form, that’s why I decided to go past him. Thereon, I did not want to tuck him behind Lecture D as he can race pretty keen ».
Alors que tout semble à présent se mettre en place pour lui, Peter Hall doit prendre temporairement congé des pistes pour des raisons de santé. En effet, le jockey vétéran doit subir une intervention à la machoire, relative à une lourde chute un peu plus tôt dans sa carrière et dont la dernière étape doit être complétée incessamment. « This is the fourth operation in the last 12 months but it’s going to be the last surgery. I had a bad fall some 10 years ago and I have already had stages 1 to 3 done as the bone had started to desintegrate. I’ve now come to the final stage of the bone graft », nous a-t-il expliqué.
Le verra-t-on à nouveau au Champ de Mars cette saison ? « If they want me back, yes (laughs). It’ll require approximately 4-5 weeks rest after the surgery with the follow up with the orthodontists. It’s only upon their green light that I’ll be able to come back but I want to return for the Barbé. I’ve had a fantastic time so far in Mauritius, I’ve loved every minute of it. I always wanted to come back after my first experience in 2010 to do better than what I did before (4 victoires seulement). It’s been a bit difficult for me during the first two weeks but everything is going on smoothly now. I have a great friendship with Jean-Michel so I could not ask for more really ».