Callaghan scores first Group One

By Michael Guerin

There was no room for sentiment when driving young gun Jack Callaghan scored his first group one win in the $100,000 TAB Hunter Regional Final in NSW on Saturday night.

The 18-year-old showed composure beyond his years after Kanye Crusader broke a hopple soon after the start, an incident which would have proved disastrous.

But the four-year-old pacer overcame the setback to give Callaghan the final of the Hunter regional series and in doing so he beat out his father Mark, who drove runner-up Master Catch, by a half neck.

“That just made it better,” laughed Jack.

Mark, as you might imagine, has been Jack’s greatest supporter since he started race driving 23 months ago and the youngster still works for his father.

“He has been a great help but at the top of the straight last night I thought he was going to beat me,” says Jack.

“But my horse tries really hard and after the line Dad said to me: ‘well one of us has got it, I think it is you.

“So he was stoked for me as well.”

Kanye Crusader is trained by Clayton Harmey, who has also been a big supporter of Callaghan but the drive could so easily have gone to fellow young driving star Blake Hughes.

Hughes won the qualifying heat on Kayne Crusader but was ineligible for the group one drive as he doesn’t have his A-grade licence yet.

“The same thing happened to me last year in a group two at Wagga, I had a horse for the final but couldn’t drive it because I didn’t have my A licence,” said Callaghan.

Callaghan and Hughes are two of the exciting young drivers starring in the Hunter region, along with others like Tom Ison, with all having recorded five-win bags at single meetings recently.

But last night’s final got almost more exciting than Callaghan could have wished for after Kanye Crusader’s early mishap which left one of his front hopples flapping around his leg, not only useless but potentially dangerous.

“When it broke I just closed my eyes and hoped he wouldn’t fall,” says Callaghan.

“But after that it didn’t seem to bother him which is pretty incredible.”

Callaghan is hoping to bring his skills to Menangle more often once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and that will mean teaming up with Dad rather than beating him.

“Dad has some Menangle type horses and I want to drive there as often as I can when I get the chance.”

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