Story and Photos courtesy of Graham Potter and www.horseracingonly.com.au
By Robert Heathcote | Thursday, September 15, 2011
Robert Heathcote is the leading racehorse trainer in Brisbane. 'Rob's Shout' - the personal blog of the multi-premiership winning trainer will appear every Thursday on HRO.
Wow, my stable certainly had an exceptional day last Saturday. In fact it was very nearly the perfect day for us across two states with only a short-half-head separating us from a perfect four wins from four runners.
Our stable had a winning double on the big stage at Moonee Valley with my two 'Big Guns' Buffering and Woorim both winning first up in sensational style!
Back home at Doomben we had Funtantes winning the feature race, also first-up and under the big weight of 58 kilos, while Sway To Go just missed out on back-to-back, wins only going down in the last stride or two.
A normal Saturday race day is usually a busy day anyway, but racing interstate does make it a pretty long day … as last Saturday proved to be.
My day starts at 3am when I get up and first walk out to the stables. Mike O'Leary is already there and he's got things already rolling along, saddling up the first three or four and onto the walking machine for a pre-work out walk.
I do some brief office work, check the emails, have a discussion with Mike about the work order, specific instructions and how they ate up overnight and I then head over to my other on-course racing stables. The same happens there with a discussion with big Robert re the work and also to see how they have eaten overnight.
It's vital to know of any major variances in the horses feed intake as this can often be the first sign of a potential problem with a horse.
I then head up to the St Leger stand on the Eagle Farm track which is my vantage spot to watch all of my horses go through their morning work.
I like the St Leger, which is at the 200m mark of the straight, as all of the horses have to walk past me on their way to do their work and back past me afterwards which allows me to discuss things accurately pre and post work with my riders.
Sway To Go (orange cap on the inside) ran an excellent race but just got nailed in the last stride. He may not be the classiest horse in my stable but gee, I love the way he kicks when seemingly beaten.
The feedback I get from my riders is a vital tool in assessing any horse’s training progress, but that's a blog for another day?
This particular Saturday I was booked on the 7am flight with Damian Browne and a few of the Buffering connections for the flight down to Melbourne. This still allowed me time to watch the most important track gallops which I had scheduled for early in the morning.
As seems to be usual with me, I always seem to be rushing when I travel and last Saturday was no exception.
A quick shower, throw the suit on … and off to the airport for the flight making it with enough time for a quick coffee and then onto the plane.
It was all pretty quiet on the trip down although there was a definite air of expectation amongst the '6' of us. I managed to grab a bit of shut eye on the flight as it had been a busy week.
We got a maxi cab from Tullamarine to Moonee Valley which got us there at around 11 am. There was some pre-race excitement and plenty of laughs during the journey into Moonee Ponds and we all added our two-bobs worth as to how we thought the races would be run.
I liked it as it gave the guys a chance to get to know Damian a bit better as he is a very laid back guy and not a man of many words.
Tactically, Damian and I were pretty sure of our race plans although being in races five and nine would allow us to see how the racing pattern emerged from the earlier races.
I was confident pre-race in the knowledge that both horses were in super order as they had both travelled down well. They had settled into their new environment as well as I could have wished for and their work on the course proper at the Valley on the Wednesday was as good as we could have hoped for.
Both Melissa and Emma said they would have loved to have 'let their heads go' in the gallop, but I wanted them to go to the line under a hold. Kinda like driving a Ferrari on the Nurburgring and not being allowed to get out of third gear?
They were both there for a familiarisation hit out as I believed I had them right where I wanted them!
I later found out that a clocker was indeed there and Marty Synan, the track ranger said they ran the second quickest gallop of the week, which included all the gallopers from the previous morning so the work was indeed very good … and under a hold!
It was chilly when we arrived, but the day later turned out to be a typical Melbourne September day with each of the four seasons getting a run.
My first runner for the day was Sway To Go in the third race in Brisbane, so it gave me a chance to meet up with a few of my Melbourne based owners for a chat and a beer!
Sway ran an excellent race but just got nailed in the last stride. He may not be the classiest horse in my stable but gee, I love the way he kicks when seemingly beaten.
Michael Hellyer rode a very good race on him and, if not for getting softened up mid-race by Looker, he would have won!
Still, win lose or whatever, I am always satisfied when the horses hit the line and Sway certainly did that, so the day was off to a good start.
My wife was representing the stable back at Doomben and Vicky said all went well except for one of the connections, Andrew Bowcock doing a triple somersault as he came down the stairs in the excitement thinking we had won. Fortunately there were no broken bones.
Buffering arrived at the track with Melissa around noon and he settled in well. He was nice and relaxed and he looked resplendent walking around in his Brisbane Racing Club ‘Flagship Horse of the Year’ rug, which he recently won … but he would look even better later walking around with the Mitty's McEwan Stakes winning rug on him after his race!
Our plan was for Damian to 'smoke' him out of the gates and take up the running if he could. Sure there was a ton of on-paper speed in the race, but we figured the 'locals' might under-estimate us a bit!
Whilst he dwelt a touch upon jumping, Buffering showed sizzling speed to get across to the fence, but unfortunately Damian gave Lisa Cropp a 'shave' and he later incurred the wrath of the stewards copping a 13-day suspension.
I watched the 1000m scamper from up in the stands, right on the line. I was happy during the run and to see him lead them into the straight really got the adrenaline pumping as I knew this little 'bulldog' would kick all the way to the line.
I am sure Williams thought he would get past The Buff up the running on Crystal Lily, so he is now aware of how tough the little bugger is.
As they crossed the line, I had no idea if he had won so I raced down the stairs to the enclosure and then I heard Greg Miles say the three has got it.
It was a thrilling win and being my first Melbourne metro winner and a Group 3 race against some real quality 'Group 1' opposition made it even more satisfying.
The decision to bring Damian Browne down to Melbourne certainly was justified with a superb display of front running riding. I had already said it! Damian, in my opinion, is in the top five riders in this country. I will let you work out the other four!
Fifteen years away from the track and he rode it like the star he is!
Buffering has pulled up really well after the race. He did have a huge blow, so we are expecting him to take a lot of improvement out of his run.
Maybe he will have to as he now takes on Sepoy, More Joyous and a return bout with those in the McEwan … this time in the Group 1 Manikato in three weeks time.
That will surely be some amazing theatre and we cannot wait as this has to be the ultimate in this industry. Group 1 racing during the VRC Spring carnival … and we have a real live chance to boot.
There was plenty of high-fiving after Buffs win and, of course, a few celebration beers and champers, but we still had a job to do with Woorim in the last.
The timing meant that I had to watch our good mare, Funtantes’ race at Doomben on a TV monitor up in the stalls.
It was hard to see on the monitor, but when Jimmy got the gap at the top of the straight, I thought she would win the race.
A very good day was quickly turning into a sensational day and there was still a race to go.
Vicky called me and said there were jubilant scenes at Doomben and everyone was just so excited, none more so than Wayne Purchase and Bruce Harry.
That win certainly underlined her ability and the fact that when Funtantes is right, she is right up there with the best mares in Queensland!
Woorim's win in the last in Melbourne was really just the icing on the cake on a huge day.
He is a real quality race horse and fair to say, racing in career best form. He looks the part and he is certainly feeling that way. Damian, Ross and I were all confident that he would handle the Valley track, which is why he has been paid up for the Cox Plate to date.
It was a matter of Damian giving him an uninterrupted clear run to the line. Whilst it may not have looked a pretty ride, it was an effective ride and I did go the 'early crow' at the 800 when I saw him rolling forward and in the clear.
'They won't beat him now', I said to Melissa. Brownie got confident and threw his whip away at the top of the straight and he later said tongue-in-cheek, 'he knew he wouldn't need it'.
It was a dominant win, with perhaps a touch of arrogance about it with the 60.5kg on top.
Woorim is now a step closer to a deserved Group 1 win in a fortnight at Caulfield in the Sir Rupert Clarke. He was stiff not to win it last year and my biggest fear at this stage is the weather and track conditions.
He has also pulled up well after the race and Melissa reports that he has not missed a beat since the run. It was after all a pretty soft win in the end so bring it on for the big one next up!
Woorim has been paid up for the Cox Plate and whilst there will be those that may well laugh, dreams are free and you certainly cannot win if you are not in it and I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that Woorim has one of the best finishes of any horse in Australia!
Ross and I will assess his form and of course the weather over the next five weeks and decide on his program later.
‘Up There Cazaly’ is a special song about a special day late in September in Melbourne, but mine came earlier this year. A couple of hours on a September afternoon in Melbourne which I shall not forget in a hurry … although it's fair to say that I would dearly love to be singing 'Up There Cazaly' with the Sir Rupert Clarke trophy in my hands on the 24th!
It was a memorable day, if not for the results on the track then certainly for the comedy that played out on the trip to the airport. The day still had a 'funny' twist in it for us!
We were waiting in a long line for a taxi to the airport when Damian and I were recognised in the line and a 'punter', already in a cab said we could join him in his cab! He said we could have his cab, but first he had to be dropped off near the city.
Well, a fifteen minute drive to the airport from Moonee Ponds turned into traffic chaos in the city and a mad dash to Tullamarine which saw us make the flight with about thirty seconds to spare.
Our ‘Good Samaritan’ probably doesn't even know if we made the flight or not, but he got a free cab ride out of us and gave us cause for plenty of anxiety.
Damian and I got a chance to chill out in business class on the flight home and it gave me a chance to get the laptop out and do some work on my post-race reports.
I enjoyed a couple of glasses of red and it gave me a chance to reflect on the wonderful day.
I got back home at about 10pm after what had been a long but a very enjoyable and satisfying day. Another glass of red and a chance to watch the replays a few times in peace and quiet and then I can assure you not too many sheep got over the fence when my head hit the pillow late and I fell asleep late on Saturday night.
It is important to enjoy the good times and they certainly are for us at the moment.
Racing has a habit however of giving you a 'slap' every now and then though!
It was certainly very sobering for me and another example of what a great leveller racing can be when Kevin Thomas called me at 8am on the Sunday morning to inform me one of my best two-year-old prospects, a Danzero filly out of our group winning mare Chenar, had broken a leg in a paddock accident overnight.
She was owned by my good friends, Rob Ciobo and Bruce Harry and my two brothers, Brian and Toby … so that one hurt.
Still, no point dwelling on it too much, its happened and we move on ...hopefully to another big day next Saturday.
Till next week,
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