FEATURE RACE COMMENT
"He had that viral infection of the lungs last season, and sometimes they don't come back from those things. And I was starting to wonder whether he would come back from it at all. We were even starting to consider whether his future lied only in racing in America. But he turned the corner with his previous run, and the past week he has been as good as ever," he added.
Higgs took any number of positives from the result. White Arrow now has form for tomorrow's NZ Free-For-All and Higgs can now look beyond this week to the Grand Circuit again, but the satisfaction comes from getting White Arrow back to his best at home, having only had the one workout or trial this time in in September. "When a horse is not right in the lungs, it can take a long time to come right and trials only place undue stress on them. So it was best to bring him along in a controlled enviroment (at home) and get him properly fit with racing, without knocking him around too much."
White Arrow was not ready for a likely searching assignment in the Kaikoura Cup and Higgs had already given the NZ Cup away, not making the last payment, before he raced at Addington on November 3 where he got home almost as well as Flashing Red and Howard Bromac after being last at the half (55.5, 27.5) and finishing a little over three lengths from the winner.
"We reached a point where we could have busted his gut trying to get a Cup start, but it could have undone all the good work we have put in all year. We felt it was best to back off a bit and consider the best long term interests of the horse. It has only been the last week or two that he has been truly cleared to race by the vet. This is a genuine Grand Circuit horse, he is not going to be just a battler at that level."
The latter comment was hard to disagree with after White Arrow overcame the outside of the second line in the mobile 1950m to score in a 1:56.6 mile rate over Likmesiah and Badlands Bute, who were both on the ballot for the Cup. With Higgs free-wheeling in front with speedster Man With The Money, Todd Woodward was on the move from five-back on the outer a lap out; White Arrow took up the running passing the half and went on to fight off Badlands Bute on the outer and Likmesiah's late charge along the inner. "It was in nobody's best interests to try to keep White Arrow wide when he came around, and having burned early, it was only a matter of time before Man With The Money was going to run out of gas anyway."
For both Woodward and Higgs, who races White Arrow with his sister Elaine and Dunedin's Russell Nieper, it was their first wins on Cup Day. Nieper also races Highview Badlands and promising sorts in Radar Installed and trotter Sunshine Boy, all trained by Jim Curtin. "It's just great to have him back. He is the stable star and as long as he is going well, the rest can all be running last and you'd still feel like you're going okay."
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 16Nov06