While the Promethean eagle has been tearing at my shoulder, while I have been suffering equally poignantly from the almost-as-painful experience of alcohol withdrawal (well, semi-withdrawal) and the affres of mal du pays for the Continent of Europe, while I have been frustrated by the inability to type, for the first time since the age of four, at a speed to keep up with my brain, to turn over in bed or to lift a bottle of milk from the frig without pain, and while I have been frozen by the temperatures of New Zealand in the autumnal months …
A little and lovely bit of joy has nevertheless come my way.
My New Zealand racing season has been thin. Worse than my French one, which seems to be over. Five horses in training here, and since my return to Canterbury in October – in large part to see them run – just five starts. Fritzl was the joy boy, with his four starts for a win and a second, but since February the dear wee boy has given us all sorts of health scares, from a tendon (he too!) to an abcess, and he won’t be back on track for a while.
But, across the water, in Australia, young Livia degerolstein continues to fly the Gerolsteiner flag.
After her qualification for the Vicbred Superseries, she ran at Melton and at Geelong and both times hit races that did not suit her. Livia’s trump card is that storming finish from the rear, so when she gets in a race where an unchallenged leader strolls round at a (fine-worthy) dull pace and only really runs a race for the last half or quarter, there’s little chance of her taking the biscuit. She came second at Geelong, thanks to an enterprising drive by Graeme, in spite of that.
And then she went back to Melton for the Vicbred semifinals. I was in two minds. Did I want her to qualify for a rich, classic final she could surely not win? Well, she went out at enormous odds, dropped characteristically to the rear, and, finishing stoutly down the inside, found herself squeezed up by those on the outside, and placed 7th. The first six qualified, and there is no doubt that, with a clear run, she would have made it. As it was, she was named ‘first emergency’, and Graeme nominated her for another race, for the probable event of ‘no scratchings’.
Well, there were no scratchings, and Livia went not to the glamour Group One race, but to Yarra again. I was quite relieved. At Yarra we had a good chance. In fact, I thought, we’d probably be favourite, and should win. The other top favourites, after all, were horses who hadn’t made the Vicbred finals, and Riviera Kiss and Elegantly had both been among Livia’s recent victims.
But, curiously, Way2Bet wasn’t on our side that day, and the punters also looked elsewhere. Everyone talked the other horses, and Livia went out paying $5. And that in spite of the fact that Graeme had ‘put the boy on’: his top driver son, Gavin.
Needless to say, Livia dropped straight to the rear from her outside draw, as the grey, Dufflecoat Jet Lag, rolled to the front. Riviera Kiss was on the leader’s elbow, and Elegantly covered up in the middle, as the well-liked colt Jefferson City improved three wide round the final turn. Livia cruised along in his wake, and as soon as they hit the straight, she just pulled out and left them for dead. Gavin hardly had to rustle her up: she just upped her stride, stuck out the red nose roll, hit the front well before the post, and waltzed home two lengths – which could have been several more – to the good.
Her easiest win yet! Number four for Livia, and number 38 for me … goodness, with only one horse racing I MAY still make it to 40 this year!
Oh, by the way, the Vicbred Final? It was won by Bella’s Delight, which beat Livia half a head for second place in the heats. That heat’s winner, Aussie Made Lombo, fiished third. I think we drew the hot heat!
Alas, no pictures. You don’t want photos of me in my present state, and getting pictures of Australian races is a no-no ..
I’ll jolly up this page with pictures of Gerolstein and the horses soon ..