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1989 NZ TROTTING CUP: Won by Inky Lord


A small handful of grit might have been the key to Inky Lord's dynamite performance to win the $400,000 DB Draught NZ Cup at Addington Raceway on Tuesday. Driver Ricky May arranged for a starters assistant to place the tiny stones in Inky Lord's mouth just before the start. He thought the grit would be a distraction while he was at the barrier and could make the difference between a good start and a poor one. "I've got Jimmy Curtin to thank for that wee secret," said May later.

It was national news on Friday that Inky Lord had failed to begin cleanly at the pre-cup trials on Thursday and any show Inky Lord had in the Cup depended on a safe start. This information was enough to put the breeze up the best of Inky Lord's admirers.

Curtin and May are good friends and as they walked around before the start of the first race on Cup Day, Curtin said to his mate: "Put some grit in his mouth just before the start. Nine out of ten have gone away when I've used it." May had tried the bribe on other horses, but had never before thought of using it with Inky Lord. "It gave him something to do at the barrier, but he was so settled and relaxed that I'm sure he would have begun well in any case. Brian spent about two hours with him on Saturday; he was just such a relaxed horse this time," he said.

May confessed that he was still in two minds after his Hannon Memorial success whether it was right to start such a young horse in the Cup, but he was also aware the horse was improving so much with each race.

At a "rough count", May puts his number of wins at 260. He has driven Inky Lord in every trial and every race - bar one, and that was in the Sapling Stakes when Kerry O'Reilly stood in during a term of suspension.

Had it not been for a dreadful check 450 metres from the finish, Inky Lord may not have won the Cup. Buried back in the pack, 12 lengths away from pacemaker Kylie's Hero, Inky Lord appeared to lose all chance when Debbie's Boy broke ahead of him after interference, and drifted back. Driver Ricky May saw the benefit of a brilliant beginning and a chance of winning the Cup fall apart. The situation appeared hopeless. "It just took me out of the race. I didn't have a dog's show when that happened," he said.

To Inky Lord's advantage, the gaps ahead had opened, but it was a matter of whether the little black grenade would have time to muster his usual explosive finish. Moving to the outside of the track, following the bold challenges being made by Bold Shavid and Dillon Dean, Inky Lord used speed and competitive spirit to join in the chase after Kylie's Hero.

By this stage, the second favourite was finding the last 50 metres uncomfortable, and Bold Sharvid passed him bravely. Dillon Dean, driven a treat by Colin De Filippi, then took over. But Inky Lord was still in full cry and five metres from the finish, the four-year-old had his head in front.

"When I started to catch Luxury Liner I thought there might be some of the money in it for us. And, then as we got closer to the finish I knew there was a chance we just might get up. It was a phenomenal sprint. I really thought Colin had it until those last 10 metres," said May.

Tony Herlihy, who drove the favourite Luxury Liner, said the backmarker went good and tried hard. "He just couldn't get a breather at any part."

"I thought to myself 'where'd the black fellow come from',"said James Stormont, who drove the third placegetter Bold Sharvid.

"I was confident he would see it out and he fought well. It was only in the last stride or two that he lost it, said Colin De Filippi, the driver of Dillon Dean. "I was pretty confident I had everything covered. I had forgotten about Inky Lord, because I knew he was behind me, and I didn't think anything would come from behind Dillon Dean and beat him."

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HR Weekly

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