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2000 NZ FREE-FOR-ALL - Won by Agua Caliente


Poppy Short was too far away to hear the crowd roar for Agua Caliente as he sprinted best to win the Air New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington. Still at home in Waiuku, she was doing enough yelling of her own. And having lept off the couch as Agua Caliente hit the line, the first to get a hug at her end of the country was her faithful dog Butch, who must have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Poppy chose to stay away from the glamour of Cup Week in Christchurch. Like a lot of people, she's not at all comfortable with flying, which is quite understandable considering two of her brothers were killed in plane crashes during World War II and she almost lost a third brother the same way. She has never got on an aeroplane, and never will. "But I like being able to sit at home and watch the races by myself," she says, "it gives me time to think."

With 24 wins already, Agua Caliente has provided Poppy and her daughters, Donna Woods and Susan Short, with plenty of happy moments. Sadly, every one of those victories "wrenches" with memories of Poppy's late husband Don, who died four years ago next February.

Winning last Friday's Free-For-All was something special though. "It was just Brilliant," the 69-year-old continued. "Peter and Glen (Wolfenden) are such wonderful horsemen and Glen's such a great driver. Agua Caliente's like one of the family, and they love the horse too so they always do the best by him."

It was a classic drive from Glen on the occasion, because he picked that the Cup winner Yulestar would press forward from his wide draw so he wanted to be in front early and waiting for him. "I could not have wished for a better run," Wolfenden admitted. "I had to wake my bloke up a bit out of the gate, then once Yulestar came around I knew he wouldn't give the lead away. People think Agua Caliente is only a sit-sprinter, but the way he worked at both ends today and the time he went proves that he can grind it out."

Despite a cold day and rain affected surface, Agua Caliente won the Free-For-All in 2:24.7, a 1:56.4 mile rate and less than half a second outside Iraklis' national mark set on Cup day four years ago.

Credit: John Robinson writing in NZHR Weekly

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