They’ve been teasing Hay List all week.
His mates in the McNair stable. Pluggers, most of them. Couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night. But they haven’t missed him.
“Hey Hay, have you heard the news? Black Caviar’s running in the Newmarket!”
“List, looks like you’re running for second again old son. Moody’s changed his mind. The Mare’s headed for Flemington!”
“Don’t worry HL, we’re still proud of you. Nothing to be ashamed of, running a few lengths behind HER.”
Then they’d let out the high-pitched whinny that horses do when they’re actually having a laugh, and head for the sand roll.
Hay List would just glare at his so-called chums. Nothing like stable humour.
They were joking, of course, these provincial plodders. Australia’s other flying machine won’t have to deal with the Great One today. What a relief.
How hard it must be to be second banana, when you still qualify as one of the greats yourself. And he is, make no bones about it. Think what might have been. An extra five or six Group One trophies on the mantlepiece.
Even more importantly, we’d be talking about him. Comparing him to champions of the past. Instead of feeling sorry for him.
Today, Hay List gets to step out of the shadows. In one of the great races of the Australian turf. The time-honoured Newmarket down the gut-busting Flemington straight.
This afternoon, McNair’s gelding is firmly in the spotlight. With the pressure that goes with it.
Of course, they haven’t made it easy for him. Nothing unusual there. A near-capacity field. And the six-year-old will be lugging top-weight. A crushing fifty-eight and half kilos. Don’t discount that over the last furlong.
With no Black Caviar, they’re lining up to beat him.
Over in barrier one, the horse being spruiked as the Next Big Thing is ready to prolong Hay List’s pain.
Rain Affair just keeps winning. Ten of eleven. Nine in a row. Sound familiar?
Trainer Jo Pride thinks he has one of those once in a lifetime gallopers. Reckons greatness beckons. They have no fear of the favourite.
Bel Sprinter had awful luck last time out. Another one they reckon could be a superstar.
Rob Heathcote’s not afraid either. Not with the Mare missing. His two, the bulldog Buffering and the swooper Woorim, are primed.
Then go right down to the bottom of your form guide. The three-year old, carrying a postage stamp. Foxwedge is being tipped by the smarties. And Craig Williams could win on a rocking horse at the minute.
All brimming with confidence. But they’re forgetting one thing.
Hay List might just be the best male sprinter in the world. Glyn Schofield thinks so, and it’s hard to argue with him.
Some might miss his courage, when all eyes are on Black Caviar striding away. Not once has he turned it up. He gives everything, every time. And on so many occasions, it’s almost been enough against the best ever. Almost.
Today, they’ll have to match him. When he lets down, they’ll have to keep up. We’ll all be watching him instead.
I think he wins, even with the weight. I hope he wins. He deserves to hear the roar of the crowd, cheering his name alone. Just this once.
Victory would be sweet. And so deserving. I reckon even Black Caviar would be applauding.
It might keep the critics quiet too. Especially his mates back in the stable. Nothing like a Group One to put a plodder back in his box.