Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Gerolsteiner Landmark or, Duchess’s Divvie…

I’ve been breeding trotters in a very small way for six or seven years now. Not, it has to be said, with any notable success.
My first baby, Duchess, was too wicked to make a racehorse; the second and the third, Boris and Wanda, qualified, but never made it to the track..
But then came the year of two mares. Gwen bore her fourth baby, little Seppl, and the Duchess her first, his playmate Fritzl, known to race commentators as The Soldier Fritz.
Fritzl not only did make it to the races, last year as a two year-old he even raced in some of the classic juvenile races and finished fourth in the New Zealand Trotting Stakes. A landmark … a cheque … but not yet an official 1-2-3 place.
And now they are three year-olds, those two little boys, and if you follow this blog you’ll have read about Seppl’s two encouraging trial wins, and Fritzl’s fine, front-running workout the other day against the champion Glenbogle. Surely one or other of the two would soon break Gerolstein’s duck, and post a divvie.
Well, today Fritzl lined up for his first ‘normal’ race. No classic, just a straightforward maiden handicap in the sunshine of Ashburton. Given his workout effort, I was quite surprised to see he was paying 25-1 on the tote… but since I don’t bet. what did I care?

I was chuffed to see him behave nicely at the start, in spite of interminable waits for ill-schooled horses, I was chuffed to see him go away smoothly if slowly, whilst around him other horses were prancing and galloping, and when they settled down, there he was perfectly placed in fifth, on the outside.
Well, give or take the galloping (of others) it wasn’t a hugely adventurous race, and into the straight there he still was, poised behind the raceaway leader and the other better-behaved horses. ‘Go whoosh!’ cried my heart…
Well, he didn’t go whoosh. Maybe he doesn’t or can’t, or it was too dangerous for an effective first race to try to ... but the wee boy wound up gradually as others weakened and, when the post arrived .. our Fritzl was third! Beaten a length and a bit, and a neck. (I think, later, looking back we might be quite pleased to have been only a neck from Zealous Lady.) And when the result went up, he had paid a fine $6.60 for a place…
Eleven years ago, in April 1999, my very first horse, Davey Crockett, went to the races for the first time, in a maiden handicap at Hawera. He, too, finished third (though less well behaved). And he paid $5.00. Davey went on to win five races for me.. and I went on in search of other landmarks.
Today is one.
Our first home-bred divvie.
Bless you, little Fritzl!
And I guess I'd better toddle down the back paddock and tell Duchess...

PS We are hugely lucky here in the South Island of NEw Zealand to have probably the best racing photographers I've encountered anywhere in the world -- Colin and Ajay Berry of Race Images, take a bow! The walls of Gerolstein drip with the pictures they've taken of our horses over the last decade, and here's what they've sent me of today... a lovely photo of the wee boy in the running, and another showing him finishing on down the outside for third..

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