A few quiet days in Sydney, he said. With my friends Barry and Rosie. Doing very little. Except eating, watching the races and the golf, writing and gossiping … We have plenty of food-for-gossip up our sleeves, as our close friendship goes back to 1973, when we performed together on the dear old SS Northern Star, and the much less attractive Queen Elizabeth II. Rosie was a delightful Merry Widow to my basso Danilo.
But we have more in common than the theatre. There are the horses. Some years on, Barry and I got into racing. Starting with a little mare named Gwen, we were partners in several New Zealandish trotters and then an Australian galloper by name Rosmarino.
Rosmarino turned out very nicely and won five metropolitan races before retiring to stud. But it was all getting a bit big and expensive, and eventually I backtracked to my trotters and Barry to his gallopers. I did well enough. Much fun and nearly 50 wins. But Barry did better. Rosmarino mothered a colt christened Va Pensiero who won the San Domenico Stakes and the Group 3 Run to the Rose, breaking the Rosehill track record …
Alas, he subsequently broke down, so while he went off to be a stallion, Barry dove into the 2016 Inglis sales catalogue. Two days before the sales, I arrived in Lane Cove. And, of course, the sales being broadcast integrally on telly, we watched. I shouldn’t. I’m far too susceptible to a pretty filly.
Well, to cut a long story very short, I now own a wee share in a beautiful yearling Stratum filly. After several years of stoutly declaring my exit from the racing game, after disposing of nearly all my horses … I’m still here.
One of the two racehorses who still race in my soft-boiled egg silks is little Montmorensy. ‘Monty’ is the second-last son of the now deceased Gwen, a brother to my best ever trotter, Seppl, and he is named for that brilliant man of music (see youtube) who has become one of my dearest friends. The wee chap started racing with a bang, winning at just his third start, aged three, at Marlborough, last year, but when he came back to Canterbury, racing against the best one-win trotters in the country, he couldn’t quite cut it. So Murray-his trainer sent him to his associate, Darryn Simpson, in Dunedin. Dunedin proved more to Monty’s liking, and after a few fair warm-up runs, he surprised by running second, behind a classic filly, a couple of weeks ago.
His run obviously didn’t impress the pundits though. When he lined up, last night, at Forbury Park he was poorly supported (sixth favourite) and rarely tipped. Except by his trainer on Harnesslink. Oh, well, I don’t bet. But I was keen that he should run in the money so that he would have a future. Barry was more positive. He put a few dollars on him.
As always, Monty began safely. Sam (Ottley) even got him out fastest before tucking into the trail behind the rails horse, the favourite, driven by Dex Dunn, the universe’s champion driver. Ideal pozzie, Sam! They rolled along at a fair rate and, of course, no one but a crazed, bolting 66-1 shot tried to knock King Dex off his front spot. Coming into the home straight, his Grace Lightning and, behind him, wee Monty seemed to have the rest of the field breathing extremely hard. The two pulled away, and then Sam took Monty to the outside. Monty doesn’t go ‘whoosh’, but neither does he give up, and with Sam working overtime he edged up … at the post it was close, very close, but he got there!
I was thrilled, gobsmacked …
And, once again, I wasn’t there for the victory photograph … well, I guess those days are past. But apparently my racing, and even winning, days aren’t quite. I suppose when you are bit, you are bit for life.
PS My career as a breeder, with Gwen as ‘foundation mare’ has been respectable if not notable. She had 6 foals, three to race, one to breed, two midgets who qualified but didn’t race. Of the three racehorses, Seppl won seven, Monty has won two and D’Arcy, alas, died on the racetrack. All geldings. But the line of Gwen is continued. Her demon daughter, La Grande-Duchesse, has had seven babes. Three have raced and all won, and four more (three by Love You, one by Monkey Bones) are on the way … so the next year will tell! And begin the next generation: her third child, Duchesse de l’amour is in foal to Pegasus Spur …