BLAST FROM THE PAST
2010 NZ DERBY: Won by Captain Peacock
2010 CHRISTIAN CULLEN NZ DERBY
Sixteen years ago, Dean Taylor blew his first chance to win the New Zealand Derby. He confessed to a training mistake after Rare Chance, a brilliant winner over Payson's Moneymaker on the first night of the John Brandon series, was beaten a head by Gingerman after Taylor scratched him from the middle night sprint.
"I made a blue. I was too light on him in between. I wasn't going to do that again. So I took this horse to Motukarara for a solid workout the weekend after the Flying Stakes. I made sure he went into the Derby ready to race."
Given the perfect trip behind the pacemaker Sir Lincoln, Captain Peacock shot up the passing lane with such a slick pick-up that the result of the $250,000 Christian Cullen New zealand Derby was all over apart from the margins and minor placings. He won by a length and three-quarters from the outsider Franco Jamar who tracked him throughout, and the favourite Russley Rascal had a chequered trip on his way to a luckless third. Winning driver Mark Jones was quick to tell taylor the margin could have been a lot more had the pair been interested in making something of it. It was not a fast Derby - 3:14.1 is unremarkable.
Not all were as fortunate with the voyage as Captain Peacock was. After sitting second early and midfield a lap out, Russley Rascal had more ahead of him than behind at the 800m, the horse buried by the three-wide line. From this difficult situation, he was blocked in the straight, and then finding room wide out, flew past the chasing bunch. Smiling Shard, another well-backed runner, was bottled up in the line behind Kotare Mach and Courage To Rule and pretty much was still caught up in that situation at the finish. The pacemaker Sir Lincoln offered little resistance in the run home. "Had he been right, he should have been in the finish," said driver Maurice McKendry.
Captain Peacock is by Live Or Die, the sire of Taylor's other Group 1 winner Waipawa Lad, and one of Taylor's pet sires. "There's no key to training them really. A lot of my owners don't have the money to buy or breed Christian Cullens, and they can fit in here. And I have always had a close connection with Nevele R. Four wealings have just arrived, and there are more to come."
He has also had a happy association with prominent mid-Canterbury breeders Keith and Bevan Grice, who bred Captain Peacock from Enchanting, a Sands A Flyin mare who had one start for a win against the 3-year-old colts and geldings on the grass at Motukarara. "She was going to go sore, so that's all the racing she did. She was out of Go Anna (who won four), and I tried another Sands A Flyin from her but he was no good."
Captain Peacock arrived as a yearling, and the ownership gradually took shape, with Grant Bull, a Merivale coffee shop proprietor who was a partner in Enchanted, being pivotal in putting the group together. The six-member GAPMAD Syndicate is predominantly from Oamaru, managed by Alistair Strachan, and includes Phil Kennard, a partner in the Welcome Stakes winner, Major Mark.
Taylor was in no hurry with the horse, although there was a time in the Spring when he had no say in the matter. He qualified at two, then cracked a pastern when he returned. "It was not bad, only needed one screw - so three weeks in a box, three weeks in a yard and he was set to go again." As he often does, Taylor takes a working holiday with two or three young horses at the Blenheim meeting in January, and that's where Captain Peacock made his debut. From barrier 10 both days, he returned home an unlucky maiden. "It backfired on us," he said. "But I remember Mark telling me after the first time he drove him - 'when I pulled the ear plugs, I don't know who got the biggest shock, me or the horse'." Captain the won his next four starts, and Kennard asked Taylor if the Derby was an option. His times said it was, and a flashing late run for fifth in the Flying Stakes convinced them.
Taylor enjoys the limelight, as long as it's low key and he can stand at the back. Driving was never his forte, though he was in the cart early enough, starting as a 10-year-old behind a "big Robert Dillon" for his uncle and nextdoor neighbour, Alec Purdon. These were the days of Double Cross, Highland Fortress and Lucrative, and later Master Dean, Game Way, Thurber Command and Master Leon, and the driving was done by Doug Watts and then Michael De Filippi. Taylor played club rugby for Prebbleton and Premiership league as a high-class prop for Hornby, and his clients today are rich in football heritage.
To make ends meet when he started at the breaking-in level, he ran a paper round, and recalled winning his first race with Lumber Scott - also his first starter - in a two mile maiden race at Westport. He has seldom been without a good horse since, with mutual loyalty between himself and Mark Jones being a key factor in the success of them both. More recently, with the sporting interests of his children Hamish and Victoria playing a bigger part in their weeks, Taylor has been through the stable, selling and retiring those in need of it. "It was my choice. It was a quiet time. We didn't have to go anywhere and a lot more younger ones were in the stable."
For Captain Peacock, his campaign will probably continue in Southland where Taylor is thinking of giving him a Supremacy heat, and the Jewels is further ahead. For Taylor, the respect for his horses continues with his owners. "Some, like Alan and Colin Greaves, have had a horse of two with me from the day I started." They are not alone in appreciating the quiet achievements of a modest man.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 14Arr10