When Alot to Hoffa greeted the judge first in the 1200m four-year-old and up Maiden Handicap at Tuncurry on Monday, it marked the first winner in Ben Blay’s young training career.
The former Gundagai resident, and son of local trainer Jim Scobie and veterinarian Kathy Blay, is now based in Singleton, riding work for Todd Howlett and trying his hand at training.
Ridden by apprentice hoop Mikayla Weir, Alot to Hoffa saluted at 60/1 and in the process, broke the Tuncurry 1200m track record, running 1.10:39.
Blay, who has only trained professionally for six months, was a little taken back by the win and could be seen still grinning from ear-to-ear after the victory.
“It was unbelievable,” he said.
“It was just surreal to have a first starter breaking his maiden and the Tuncurry track record in the process; I just couldn’t ask for more.”
While Blay didn’t take any of the 60/1 on offer at start time, one of his friends revelled in the rough result.
“My mate won $18,000 off him and he was understandably pretty pleased; hopefully I get a sling” he laughed.
Blay, who had previously been involved in showjumping, made the moved to Singleton just short of five years ago, following his long-time girlfriend, Kate Roots.
“I worked in France showjumping and did my own business showjumping, but there’s not much of an industry there, so we had to change and come over to the gallopers,” he said.
“I met Kate showjumping and now she is the foreman for Todd (Howlett), so I just ride the ones for him that nobody else wants to get on and help out at the races.”
Blay thanked Howlett for his help in the early stages of his career.
“He is super, he is so generous with his time and I couldn’t do all this without him being so understanding,” he said.
Blay also attributed his interests in racehorses to his father Jim, who trained Zero to Ten to win the 2015 Snake Gully Cup.
“It’s just a family thing, I knew my way around a horse as a small kid and I always had that connection with dad and Zero to Ten,” he said.
“We still talk every day and discuss racing.”
The 28-year-old’s connection to the area is also paying dividends with Alot to Hoffa originally coming from the Chris Heywood stable.
“Chris Heywood had big wraps on him before I got him, but you never know with maidens,” he said.
“I knew he was a good horse and to see him win first up is great.”
Still, the six-year-old did take some time to get right, after multiple injuries put back his first start by nearly three years.
“After his first trial with Chris, he had a tendon injury and Chris rehabbed him and then he did the tendon on his other leg,” he said.
“After coming back from the second spell, Chris had some issues with track work riders getting on a 6-year-old maiden, so he made a decision to move him on.”
The Bon Hoffa gelding still has plenty of improvement too, after shying away early in his first win.
“He went down on his bum after being spooked by another a horse and luckily we had Mikayla (Weir) on board and she had him sorted,” he said.
“He will only improve on the run.”
Blay is already setting his sights on the stable’s next target, with another trip up north on the cards.
“In three weeks I have my eye on a race at Coffs Habour for Alot to Hoffa,” he said.
“As I like to say, you should keep yourself in the best company and race in the worst.”
Training also looks to be Blay’s end goal, with a mixture of racing and pre-training looking the most probably outcome.
“Its romantic training horses and I do like the idea of focusing on that but I think economically, it would be better to concentrate on pre-training,” he said.
“We will just see how it goes.”