YEAR: 2007


Brendon Hill & Robert Famularo's daughter Sara
Baileys Dream won the first battle in the NZ Cup countdown after an enthralling contest during the $20,000 Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup at Addington last week, but Flashing Red confirmed it is going to be another long suffering war for his rivals before he's finished.

In race number 166, and attempting to make it a Cups double on the night for 10-year-olds after Some Direction had dominated the Ordeal Trotting Cup in her 138th start, Flashing Red drove to the front 1300m from home and a burner down the back in 27.4 had most struggling just to keep up. But Baileys Dream was still keen and indeed relishing the chase, and he came again up the passing lane to have Flashing Red covered quite easily in the end by a neck in a searching 3:11.7, a mile rate of 1:58.6 in cool and breezy conditions.

The last mile had breezed by in 1:55.8 and it will be a scary thought that the remarkable Flashing Red, off the back of one easy workout at Ashburton a fortnight ago, can only be expected to improve with the run. Ricky May for one remains in awe of the unfashionably-bred stallion, when he is one of those who will be most concerned by him. A year ago it was Flashing Red who effectively 'gutted' Mainland Banner when he fought back to down her in the Ashburton Flying Stakes in a world record of 1:57.3 mile rate for 2400m stand, prompting May to comment "he is like a disease - one that won't go away".

May knows that Baileys Dream may have got the better of Flashing Red on this occasion, when the draw enabled him to win a tactical battle of wits, but also that it will be entirely a different day whenever he comes up against him again from a stand and/or over two miles. "We got the drop on him and got to him pretty easy, but he just doesn't give up - he is just an amazing horse," said May. "Baileys Dream felt terrific and I had no idea we'd gone that quick overall (3:11), but I can see we are going to need to be at peak and have things going in our favour at any time (to beat Flashing Red)," he added.

What also remains to be seen is whether May is doing battle with Flashing Red behind Baileys Dream or Mainland Banner come Cup Day, and it could be quite late in the piece before anyone knows. Mainland Banner is almost certain to resume at Ashburton and be driven by May, and Baileys Dream is just as certain to be bypassing that race. "We definitely won't be going there - we don't see it as being a good race for him," said caretaker-trainer Brendon 'Benny' Hill. "A hard race at that point doesn't suit and the Hannon and Methven Cup are looking far more attractive options along with a final lead-up race at Addington," he added. The latter could either be a race on November 2 and 11 days before the Cup, or the Cup Trial, but the "hard yards" would have been done by then anyway.

"It's a bit difficult for the owners and trainers and I don't want to upset anybody either," said May. "The mare is going to have to come back very well and it's not going to be easy. You can't ask Baileys Dream to do anything more than he's doing either. In some ways you kind of hope the decision might be taken out of your hands, but I guess we'll just have to make a call when the time comes if we have to," he added. It does appear though that if May decides to handle Mainland Banner in the Cup again, where she will be back on the front line, that the Baileys Dream drive will go back to Todd Mitchell. That being the case, for Hill's part, he would hope that Mitchell "doesn't go into the Cup cold" and has a drive beforehand. That might seem to suggest that May might have to make a decision before November 1, regardless of whether Baileys Dream and Mainland Banner are both engaged in the November 2 race at Addington or not.

What May does know though is that Baileys Dream is "that fit and well he is jumping out of his skin, and that the credit must go to Brendon. He was very keen and actually wanted to over race when I handed up tp Flashing Red - that's why he was getting his head round a bit - although much of that was simply because Anthony (Butt) was driving to get past us. I'm sure the time off has been a blessing in disguise as I think he's probably going through a few growing pains. With no more problems, I can only see him improving with the racing because it will just serve to settle him."

What Hill knows is that from now on Baileys Dream will only be racing from stands, which will be as much about getting him off the unruly list as keeping him settled. "We've been told hat he will have to race himself off the unruly line, and we definitely want to get him off it as well. "He went away in the Cup last year from the unruly mark, but he has to learn the (standing start) game and be on level terms if he wants to win."

Hill says that missing the Flying Stakes has little to do with that being the track where he almost certainly hurt himself in an accident in a workout at the start of the year. "We were following horses at the start and there was a lot of dust. I was blinded and he couldn't see much either, and he paniked and knuckled over. We carried on to win the heat, but a couple of days later he was swollen and sore."

Hill said last Friday that Baileys Dream was bright and appeared to have come through the New Brighton Cup in great shape. "I'll still weigh him on Sunday though and keep an eye on that. Their weight can't tell you everything but it can tell you something. Every race now will be a stepping stone and a learning curve towards having him spot on for the Cup.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 19Sep07

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