Wells returns as a second-time Grand National winner in Ballarat

Ballarat turned on a bitterly cold Sunday for the Grand National steeple, won, for a second time, by one of the nation’s finest fencers .
Nanjing Night Net

Wells, who spent more than a year away from the cut and thrust of jumps races, achieved  an emotional victory and gave those around him tangible compensation for bringing the horse back successfully to racing.

In 2014, Wells stamped himself as a world-class fencer by winning the Grand National, however a freak joint infection thwarted any chance of the horse competing in 2015.

In fact former champion jumps jockey Craig Durden, the husband of trainer Katherine, maintains the horse is part of his family.

An emotional Durden said minutes after Wells had ploughed through one of the heaviest tracks seen in Victoria in recent times, that Wells could have been lost to racing.

“Once I detected the infection was in the leg and knew it could be serious if it got into the bone, I rang the Ballarat Veterinary Clinic and once I arrived they operated on him 45 minutes later.

“He’s a wonderful horse, but I didn’t want to take the risk last year, so he did his rehab and we set him for this year’s race,” Durden said.

Richard Cully, who toyed with the idea of changing rides, approached Durden to see if he should stay with the horse.

“I think Richard had a few irons in the fire but I knew he was a superior stayer and had to stay with the horse.”

Wells started at $7 and defeated Lucky Tonight at $11 with rank-outsider Undergroundfighter at $151.

Had Undergroundfighter been successful it would’ve been one of the biggest turn-ups in Grand National steeple history.

Richard Cully, who admitted to making his run too early, complimented the Durdens on their training skills to get Wells to win under his top weight of 69kg on an extremely heavy track.

“You’ve got to hand it to them [Katherine and Rod], they’ve done a superb job to bring the horse back, but I was concerned at one stage about the heaviness of the track,” he said.

“Rod and Katherine were also unsure how he would perform on the deteriorating track but I felt that, because of so much rain during day, the track had become nice and loose, which probably helped him out.

“I probably went a little too early but he was travelling so well that I sort of let him roll into the race.”

Rod Durden was formerly champion jumps jockey in his younger days and described that being a part of Wells’ win was probably his greatest thrill in racing.

“It’s a little bit different when you are riding – you can just go home and not worry about them – but this way you worry about them night and day,” Durden said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.