I thought I might get to go to the Cup this year. Well, it looks like being a particularly competitive and interesting one. And I haven’t cheered home an NZ cup-winner, from the stands, since the year of (blush) Cardigan Bay. And, this year, I was going to have a runner on Cup Day, a treat that has only happened for me once before, in my fourteen years of owning a handful of horses.
The best laid plans gang aft agley. My hat, cravat and gloves have to go back in the drawer for another year. My horse has emigrated.
I don’t sell my trotters often. Since dear old Davey Crockett, I breed them to race them, and in the hope of turning up a really nice multi-winning one. I think I finally did that with Seppl (Wrestle-Gwen).
I’ve told the story before of how he was born, from a $600 service to Wrestle, merely to be a childhood chum for the ritzier The Soldier Fritz, and how, while Fritzl was sidelined with injury, his mate went on to win five races. Naturally, he attracted some attention, but I wanted him to race here, where I could see him, carrying my soft-boiled-egg silks …
But this year I changed my mind. Partly because he was going to be up against the likes of Quality Invasion each time he ran, but largely because, for a chunk of the year, there were simply no races for a C4 male trotter with a rocket start. C1, C2, mares only, mobiles… and nothing for him … so when the latest offer came from the other side of the small pond, Murray Edmonds and I decided to let him go. No soft-boiled-egg colours, but plenty of opportunity for him to fly the made-in-Gerolstein flag, albeit for someone else.
That was a fortnight ago. And yesterday, already, after two trials, he stepped out at Menangle. In a mobile mile! The trials were, I suspect, to get him used to the unfamiliar mobile gate. The first, he trotted round behind the pacers in 2.01 and something. The second, he won by 35 metres. The pundits weren’t quite convinced: Derby placegetter I See Icy Earl and Kiwi A Loan Again got the most suffrages, but my little boy finally went out second favourite. And he never gave them a look in.
He went away from the mobile gate as quickly as he does from a stand, went straight to the front, and Sunday-strolled around as the field behind him disintegrated. Then driver Robert Morris glanced casually around and let the accelerator out a notch. Seppl cruised clear of the field and down to the line … he had virtually time-trialled his mile in 1 58.2. Eleven metres behind came the second horse, with the favourite 19 metres back third. And it’s not just proud papa talking, he did it on his ear. Both ears.
Other people evidently thought so too. My email tinkled soon after, and it has tinkled periodically ever since. Well, yes. I’ve a four-year-old Love You brother (D’Arcy de Gerolstein) and a yearling Monarchy ditto (Montmorensy), with Murray Edmonds, and a few nephews and nieces …
But the day hadn’t finished. After another ex-Kiwi, Neville Vaughan, had taken out the following race, we shifted to evening racing. The 7-win Live or Die mare, Livia deGerolstein, which Wendy Williams and I race in Victoria, was running at Melton. And blow me down, she only went down a whisker! Damn the angle at Melton! We thought we had a double!
And up in Queensland, another Gerolstein-born horse, little ‘Carlos’ (aka Return of the King), whom I rescued from a tourniquet of fencewire as a foal, at the price of a volley of electric shocks which would have stood my hair straight up, if I had any, also ran second.
All this, of course, happened just a fortnight after I left Australia for New Zealand. They never win when you are there! I’ve got used to seeing the softboiled-egg silks win on a computer-screen, from the other side of the world. So, please, during my summer’s stay, when I launch my 4-pronged attack on the tracks of Canterbury, could D’Arcy, Lucie or Agnes de Gerolstein, or the convalesced Soldier Fritz please fly the eggy colours just once for me. Or I’ll have to commute to Australia from now till I re-become a man of music and the theatre, and head back to Berlin!