There’s been a ‘false quietness’ about our little horsey world during these last weeks. Livia and Fritzl working themselves up for a return to the tracks, D’Arcy jogging, Lucie and Agnes resting, Seppl taking five …
Instead of racing horses, we’ve been rearing them. After the glamorous Franco
came Sally’s son, a lovely leggy Righteous Hanover colt, whom we have called Johnny
Next, was Annie’s little boy (also by Righteous Hanover), - so we have 'The Righteous Brothers'!
and Erin’s Badlands baby and dear old Gwen’s Monarchy foal – she is coming back to us to have it – are in the works.
But this weekend was the annual race meeting at Kaikoura. A festival of sunny seaside racing, featuring some of the best horses in the country, in the lead up to next week’s New Zealand Cup. I’ve only once had the delight of winning a race at Kaikoura – with Il Campione in 2002 – although Master Ado ran a mighty third a year or two later in the one-win trot.
Well, this year Seppl went to the seaside, to run in that very same one-win trot. Sixteen trotters in the field, and guess who opened favourite! Our wee boy! Gulp. As you know I get nervous when my horses are favourite, and today all sorts of wayward things were afoot: our Lawrence, Fritzl’s driver, won race one on a 113-1 shot, two hot favourites galloped hysterically out of contention, and there had been two scary-looking crashes, one involving Seppl’s last-start driver, the great Jimmy Curtin.
Well, by the time the race started the powers that punt had decided to go for the Purdon-trained horse, unfortunately named Contador, doubtless on the ground that the maestro could have another favourite blow up, and a North Island visitor. Seppl was third favourite.
He had drawn eight, the extreme outside of the front row, and, with a heap of shoving and manoeuvering on the part of those drawn inside him (if eight horses won’t fit across Kaikoura’s track, make it less), he was practically hung out on the post where the tape zings and slaps when released. When the tape did go, he didn’t make his usual flying beginning. He gasped a moment at the horrid machine … but then, where another horse would have galloped, got his mind back on the job and launched himself in pursuit of the best beginners.
Three back on the outside when they settled round the first bend, he waited only for the back straight, where Murray zipped out of his trailing spot and took Seppl straight to the lead. ‘He grows another leg when he’s in front’ the commentator once said. He does. He strode deliciously along in front, unchallenged, as, in the last 400 metres, the survivors of the pace and the gait lined up for the attack.
Wham! Contador galloped on the tricky home turn, wham! Royearl’s Quest, running parked, left his feet instants later, wham! Ruby and Diamonds, the original leader, flew to bits at the straight entrance and didn’t stop galloping until after the post … and Seppl? Murray glanced over his shoulder, saw he was well clear, and eased to the line more than two lengths clear of the field.
Seppl’s tenth start, his third win, and as Mr McNamara, the commentator – or was it Mr O’Connell, the link man – said, there will doubtless be more. The little boy with the most unfashionable breeding on show has turned out to be a distinctly nice racehorse.
Here he is, courtesy of Race Images, snapped hooning down the home straight with – look!—in the background, the famous Jack Litten colours, which I used to punt on decades ago in Julie Hanover days, here worn by runner-up, Game as Ned Kelly.
Colours? I know. Murray copped a $25 fine. He forgot to change his shirt, and went out wearing his colours instead of mine. But this picture will still be going on my wall. A lovely souvenir.
Win number 42!