Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gerolstein: a fabulous fortnight in February

Wendy and I have been racing and breeding harness horses from our little farm in Sefton, NZ, for over ten years now. Not all that many horses, and not all of them ours, but there have been a few wins and a few winners along the way for the born-at-Gerolstein brigade.

However, this February has turned out to be a thrilling double whammy for us. Within a fortnight, two of our Gerolstein babes have notched up wins: one on each side of the Tasman Sea.

First, there was Mikey: the third foal of Wendy’s mare, Sally, to be born here. Ned, the first, didn’t manage to win; Rose, the second had a malformed leg, but Mikey (Fifteen C), as I’ve related at length, made it to the winner’s circle at Motukarara this St Valentine’s Day. Sally is nineteen, and retired as a mother now, but she has two more babies here learning the trade: Thomas (3) and Johnny Molecule (2), who we hope will add to her maternal record of 8 New Zealand and 50 Australian wins.

Then, yesterday, at Menangle, Sydney, came the race that ‘broke our record’.

Gwen is ‘only’ eighteen, and she had three unsuccessful babies to start her career. Well, one nutty and two which qualified but never raced. Then came Seppl. Bred from the unfashionable Wrestle for $600. Seppl has turned out to be the best horse I have ever bred. He raced 27 times, for 5 wins and 9 placings in New Zealand before, alas, I was obliged to sell him to Australia. Obliged? Yes. Seppl is a good horse, a grand wee horse, but he is not a champion, and here, if you’ve won five races, you are expected to race against the champs. Sad, but New Zealand is a small country, Christchurch is a small town, and with 5 up you’ve got to export, either to Auckland, where the racing is less competitive, or to Australia.

So wee Sepp went to Oz. And started his trans-Tasman career with a bang, winning a mobile mile (absolutely not his thing!) in a nifty 1 58.2. But then things went wrong. I don’t know what. But he didn’t repeat that first effort. He didn’t seem to be the Seppl of Gerolstein days …

Then, a few weeks back, came a glimmer of things past when, not over a mile and not from a mobile start, he ran a fine second to the considerable Aldebaran Sunstar after careering along in front (which he loves) most of the way. Hope!

But alas, next out, he came up against one of the very horses he’d crossed the Tasman to avoid. Even a champ like Flying Isa was getting away from Kiwi racing! Seppl made his usual fast beginning, but Flying Isa soon took over. Seppl tried to go with him, but it was too much, and he faded in the last furlong to fifth. Hope dented.

Yesterday he came out again. Standing start, 2300 metres. Yes, the trainers have sussed his likes at last! Against all the usual horses (but NOT Flying Isa). And what? He was warm favourite! I was expecting 20 to 1. Well, somebody knew something that I didn’t. Seppl flew out from the tapes, zoomed half a dozen lengths clear, and just kept going! In the final furlong he eased up a touch and two rivals (one was Aldebaran Sunstar!) got to within 3 lengths of him ... the rest were 30 metres down the track …

So hopefully ‘our’ Seppl is back. Hopefully he will go on to give his new owner (and Gerolstein) more joy and wins …

And like Mikey, Sepp has back up. His 2 year-old brother, Montmorensy, also a Gerolstein babe, went to the trials for the first time this week. He hit a couple of Flying Isas, but he ran stoutly for third. Watch this space!

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