No Black Caviar today. Finally, Hay List is ready to shine. They won’t deny him this time. Will they?

March 10, 2012

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.

A bit like batting after Bradman. Can Hay List become the star of the show?

May 27, 2011

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.