Almanac Horse-racing (Plunges): We’ve got a good one






In late March 2009 I am at Tatura races on a Sunday to watch a horse I have in. Between races I am having a chat about things in general to a good bush trainer Shane Fliedner. When Shane is about to tell you something of significance, he takes on the persona of a Damon Runyon character. The words are quiet, measured, sparse and they come out of the side of his mouth. He tells me he has bought a horse in Adelaide  for 30k and he goes better than good but needs to finalise the ownership tonight and there is 10% left. I can have the share for $3500. Further he adds you will get your money back in three weeks’ time at Seymour. I tell him I will let him know by 7pm and on the way home call Gary Sherer and recount the conversation. Sherer says Shane knows horses and doesn’t bullshit if he thinks the horse is good it will be: go for it. I ring Shane and the deal is done.


On 14 April 2009 I set off to Seymour with Gavin who, when I bought the horse, didn’t know we had bought another horse as he was in America doing things that prominent western suburbs businessmen and colourful racing identities do. Today is money back plus some more on Tollesprit the horse in question who, according to Shane, is a sit and steer job. We are in Race 1, a 2yo maiden, with a number of other first starters also entered. We pull up in the car park around 12 and a ute parks beside us with three passengers. A young bloke is driving and two older blokes get out of the ute both with a stubby in hand. I enquire as to whether they are settling in for a big day and they respond: “we will win the first with Tollesprit and that’s why we have a driver.”  An immediate rapport is struck with the two Echuca businessmen as we wander in to the track to greet our trainer. Nothing has changed, the job is right, get on.


Well, did we get on! At 9 and 8 and 7 but surprisingly, given the size of the bets Toll settled at 5, and remained so as there were wads of money coming for two other first starters from the Vasil and Price stables. Nevertheless confidence is high and, when Mark Pegus is legged up, he is informed the sling from the four new best mates is 5k. “I prefer $100 notes,” he says, or words to that effect.


In the run the horse was always going to win. At the 400 he is sitting nicely, third, between a couple of other horses. At the 200, Pegus eases out to avoid the tiring leader. Toll puts a length on the Price horse (which is tiring) and the Vasil horse comes home for second. Pegus drops his hands gives Toll an easy last 20 metres and we win by half a length. Well it’s off to the owners’ room and Abbotts lager never tasted sweeter in Seymour on a Tuesday afternoon.


Halfway through our first beer the protest siren sounds. Protest second against first. Are they serious? Nobody protests on a maiden on a Tuesday. We assure ourselves it’s a frivolous protest and will be dismissed as such and we are reassured when we watch the head on footage and note we have slightly inconvenienced the second horse but we have gone to the line under a tight hold whilst the second horse is ridden hard. Fliedner and Pegus are representing our interests and the opposition is represented by their jockey Danny Brereton and trainer Tony Vasil. Doesn’t matter anyway, we have done nothing wrong and justice will surely prevail. Now as all punters know the longer a protest hearing goes the more likely it will be upheld and as the minutes ticked by the beer in the owners room started to taste flat and the sandwiches prepared by the good women of the Seymour CWA started to taste like they were made with Saturday’s bread. After 20 agonising minutes the siren sounds. PROTEST UPHELD is the announcement and the beer in Seymour on a Tuesday afternoon tasted like phenyl.



There is a rub to this the second horse who was awarded the race on protest was Carrara who ran second in the Caulfield Guineas and was a Group 2 and Listed Race winner. The third horse trained by Mick Price was Aloha who went on to win Listed Races and a Group 1. Far be it for me to speculate but we may well have been robbed on protest in the best two year old maiden run in Australia for many a year. Toll won his next two starts at Ballarat and Flemington with his head on his chest at short odds. He won again at Moonee Valley and Flemington and ran seventh in the Newmarket won by Wanted, broke down and Shane could never get him right again.



Ah well, that’s racing. It’s an imprecise science and if it was easy everyone would be doing it.



Read another plunge yarn from The Muse HERE



Read more musings from Hayden Kelly HERE.



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  1. A great yarn, Drizzle.

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