A man needs a hobby. Why not buy a racehorse?

July 28, 2012

A mate of mine is looking for something new.

Been a sportsman all his life. Played footy, and tennis, but his great love is cricket.

He was still involved up until a few months ago. When they won the local competition. At 45 years old. He celebrated like they’d won the World Cup.

After such a triumph, he’s decided to hang up the whites. Which means he needs something else to do.

As we chatted about the path ahead, he threw up the possibility of buying into a racehorse. He loves a punt, and reckons ownership could become his new interest.

My advice was simple. Get in immediately.

It’s such a wonderful, exciting, frustrating, painful, excruciating, yet thrilling ride. What more could a sports fan ask for?

Our horse is spelling. Again. Cruelled by an incredible run of wet tracks. Like his part-owner, he can’t lift his feet when called on to run in the mud.

So he’ll enjoy life in the paddock for a while. Again. This, after an early bout of colic, two rounds of shin soreness, and a cut from the bloody walking machine.

I did mention this ownership caper is fun, didn’t I? Well, as crazy as it sounds after detailing our present woes, it is.

Patience is the key. So they keep telling us. Wait for him to mature, to grow into his giant frame, and get on to a dry track sometime before 2020.

And wait we will. Because we love the involvement. It IS exciting, every time we hear that’s he’s going around.

A few weeks back, he stormed home at  Doomben mid-week, to just miss a place at odds. It was like we’d seen the Second Coming. That one run was enough for us to make plans for next year’s Cox Plate. Hope, however faint, keeps the owner alive.

We’ve seen precisely nothing since. Nought. Bloody rain is to blame. It will all be different after his spell.

I have other friends bitten by the ownership bug. Another great mate has two on the go. He’s driving all over New South Wales, as they progress through the grades. And he’s loving every single minute.

We see ourselves sharing favouritism in a Group One event in the not too distant future. Fighting out the photo finish. Winner’s shout that night. If you want to be a decent owner, you have to dream big.

He sent me a text yesterday. They were running at Newcastle today. Right up until the horse picked up a cold. Scratched with a sneeze. It’s enough to make a bloke sick.

I haven’t told my other mate about all these problems. He’ll learn, soon enough. The list of things that can wrong as an owner runs many pages. But none of it matters on the day they salute. The beer never tastes so good.

I hope he goes ahead with it. We might have to plan for a three-way photo in that big race. As long as he’s happy to shout.  Owners need all the help we can get.

Track too wet. Race too short. He finished second last. So why are the owners still smiling?

April 21, 2012

Do a headcount at a city meeting midweek. Any week. If you’ve counted above three figures, you’re obviously including trainers and jockeys.

This week, it didn’t matter. Our horse was running. Finally, his first start.

Want to meet an optimist? Let me introduce you to a racehorse owner. We’re a special breed. We only think positives. Tell us we can’t win, and we’ll cover our ears.

It’s taken forever to get our bloke to this stage. He’s a giant of a thing. We had to be patient, and let him develop. He got bigger, as our wallets got smaller. Growing in the paddock. Day after day. But we’re a happy bunch.

He had colic as a youngster. Nearly died. They told us his recovery was ‘remarkable’. And some other medical stuff. But that’s the word we remembered.

After what seemed like an eternity, he made it into Rob Heathcote’s stable. Queensland’s top trainer liked him. ‘Could be anything’, he said. And some other training stuff. But they’re the words we remembered.

The strappers raved about him. Trackwork riders gave glowing reports. ‘Does it easy’, they’d say. And some other jockey stuff. But that’s the phrase we remembered.

Then he got shin sore. Off to the paddock. I felt his pain. He returned, and gradually got back into work. The wraps continued. Then he went shin sore again. I couldn’t walk for a week.

Good owners ooze patience. We have to. We look forward, and dream, and ignore negatives. We live for any signs of hope.

He came back into work again. We told each other the time away was actually a good thing. Just what he needed. Fully grown now, and no damage done. Positives.

And so here we were, on a Wednesday at Eagle Farm, men and women, chattering away like schoolkids getting ready for camp.

Like so many others, we’re part of a syndicate. People from all walks of life, joined by a love of the game. Some, we met for the first time. Just like that, we’re brothers and sisters.

He was led out by the strapper, and looked amazing. Bigger than the rest. Majestic. Our pre-race talk was all professional, but deep down, we just wanted to hug him.

Damian Browne came out with our colours on. I wanted to hug him too. One of Australia’s best, a Group One winner, riding our horse. What a thrill.

The trainer gathered us around. We felt important. Rob told us his plan for the race. A gentle jibe at his mate, the jockey. We laughed on cue. Nervously.

There was a warning about how hard it is for a horse to win on debut. Especially on a wet track. But he’d shown plenty on the training track, this bloke. That was enough for us. Bets on please.

We took our seats in the stand. Owners from other syndicates were all around. Only one of us could win, but everyone had that feeling. Positive. Optimistic. THIS will be our day.

The race was a blur. Over in a flash. We jumped awkwardly. Floundered in the going. Bloody wet track. Our giant lad was never a hope. He needs more distance. Just as we thought.

We listened to Damian and Rob post-race. Don’t despair, they said. Doesn’t handle the wet. And then, what we’d been hanging out for. “He needs it dry. He’ll be so much better for the run”. And some other soothing stuff. But that’s the message we remembered.

There’s no feeling like it. Whether it’s Race 4 on a Wednesday, or the Doncaster at Randwick, owners feel the same. Positive, and full of hope. That’s how we are.

They’ve promised we’ll have a dry track in a few weeks. And a bit more distance. Our plan is coming together beautifully. We’re owners, and we’re optimists. And there’s always next time.