The mighty mare cocked her regal head in the float. Was that cheering she could hear? Not the roar she was used to. More relieved, sustained hooting.
Black Caviar’s driver, too, pricked his ears. He’d only just begun the long journey back to Peter Moody’s Victorian palace. And here they were on Nudgee Road, just up from Eagle Farm, being whistled at.
If they’d looked closely, they would have spotted a bloke and his horse, celebrating roadside. Trainer John McNair pulling party poppers, and Australia’s second best sprinter stomping those hulking hooves.
Who could blame them? Finally, Hay List gets his chance to shine.
Punters know how game McNair’s gelding has been. All those seconds, behind the great One. Lesser types would be crushed. But not these two.
While She was treated like royalty in her custom-built Brisbane stable, Hay List was left to bunk with the rest. When they came out for the BTC Cup, it was like 20,000 fans saw right through him. But not McNair.
All along, he’s been up for the fight. Giving his bloke every possible chance. Refusing to believe that She couldn’t be beaten.
He was still thinking that, right up to the time they hit the bend two weeks back. Then Luke Nolen pressed the go button. Whoosh. Game over. Second again.
The Gosford trainer was generous in his praise of the winner. Yes, She’s too good. For everyone.
But now, She’s gone. And there’s a new hot-pot in town. Except he’s been here all along.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the path ahead is easy. It’s a bit like coming in to bat after Bradman‘s just made another 200. Not a heap of upside. Plenty of potential downside.
Hay List is a deserving short-priced favourite for the Doomben 10,000. The form line says it all. And not just in the contests against Her.
In Brisbane’s winter carnival last year, Hay List blitzed a handy field in the Healy Stakes. Five lengths easing up. It was one of the most impressive wins we’d seen.
It was just expected that he’d come back and sweep all before him. Didn’t quite work out that way.
He should win. Easily. Clearly the best horse in the race. But unlike Her, he’s not foolproof. Those taking the skinny odds could face an anxious few minutes.
Again, Buffering is the knockout chance. The Heathcote team is flying. Queensland’s top trainer calls this bloke the stable bulldog. The battle could be another carnival highlight.
But for the sake of John McNair’s health, let’s hope it’s Hay List’s day. Another second just wouldn’t be fair. They deserve some time in the sun. Much easier to shine without pesky world champions in the mix.