Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh, Livia!

Back in May – goodness, how long ago was that -- I blogged hopefully, from the northern hemisphere, about the latest addition to the ‘Gerolstein’ stable of racers .. our little Australian filly, Livia Degerolstein.
She had begun her baby two year-old career quite promisingly – four starts for a third and three fourths, which looked as if they could be fairly soon improved on. The idea of a first ever Gerolstein juvenile winner, and of my first harness-racing win in Australia – to add to those already scored in New Zealand and in France -- didn’t look impossible. But it didn’t happen.
Without ever running badly, Livia just didn’t seem to make that extra bit of progress necessary to snare her a race, and, after a couple of nowheres, instead of lining up for the big races we had looked forward to, she instead went out to have a little rest. All our rosy hopes looked doomed: the season was drawing to its end – soon she would no longer be a two year-old.
Then, suddenly, last week, as I scanned the Down Under racing pages from my flatlet in Berlin’s Nollendorfstrasse, I noticed … Livia was back! With a fortnight to go till September 1st. Was there still a smidgin of hope?
It didn’t look like it. She went to Geelong August 16, and finished seventh of nine, she went to Maryborough, just three days later, and got fourth of six. She was, as ever, running on at the end, but why oh why, no matter where drawn, did she always seem to end up at the too-far-back of the pack in the running?
One last chance. Geelong again, today 26 August. And the competition included the two horses, Blissful Kisses and Saunders Girl, that had dead-heated for second when she had been seventh there ten days ago, as well as a filly dropping back from the classic races we had once eyed hopefully for Livia. The public took the obvious view, and Livia, sporting a nice new red nose-roll, went out at odds of 20-1. Sixth fancy out of eight.
The classic filly blew up at the start, an outsider hooned suicidally to the front and .. sure enough, as they got to the bell, Livia had managed to get herself into second last place, maddeningly off the slipstreaming back of the one in front of her. Happily, the one behind her was Saunders Girl, and she was pulled swiftly out to loop the field as they headed into the final section. Livia tagged gappily on to her wheel, followed her around, three wide on the last turn, and as Saunders Girl and Blissful Kisses settled down, it seemed, to battle it out, down the middle of the track came stomping Livia! There was a heart-stopping second as she put in one short stride, but then she stuck her tough little head forward, bullocked on, and several strides before the post she elbowed past her rivals to hit the line with nearly half a length to spare!
Within ten days, she had turned round a distance of ten metres on the two runners-up, in the respectable mile time of 2mins 02.4. That ‘improvement’ we had been waiting for had well and truly happened, and that two year-old win, which had seemed so improbable just days earlier, had actually come to pass!
So, tonight – while Wendy (give or take the time difference) raises a glass to little Livia, and to trainer-driver Graeme Lang, down in Gerolstein, New Zealand – I and my pal PGB will do the same at the Nollendorfstrasse …

Goodness, what a horsey year! Elena wins (in NZ while I’m in Australia), Tenor wins (in France while I’m in Australia again), Seppl wins twice (in NZ while I’m in the Isle of Wight) and now Livia wins .. in Australia while I’m in Germany! I’m not complaining, but hopefully, one day soon, my winners and I may be in the same place at the same time? But as my friend Jack – who last week scored a zinger at Cabourg, France -- says, they never are.

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