YEAR: 2006


The training team - Tony & Michelle
Sly Flyin's comeback this season has been nothing short of amazing, and last Friday he added another chapter to the fairytale when he brilliantly won the NZ Free-For-All at Addington.

The grand old campaigner was never in the race after starting from the second row, and even trainer/driver Tony Herlihy conceded that "things looked hopeless" early on. By the time they had swung for home, nothing had changed - Sly Flyin was surronded by a wall of horses and chewing steel, throwing his head in the air. "I thought at the top of the straight that we only needed a gap," Herlihy said. "That's why I had pulled the blinds and his plugs by then; I knew if some space came that it probably wouldn't last very long, so I wanted to have him all revved up and ready to go."

Waiting for his moment to come, Herlihy somehow managed to squeeze Sly Flyin through a narrowing gap inside White Arrow and then let him rip...on a surface deadened by constant rain, the way he ate up the deficit and caught the leaders in less than a furlong was truly remarkable. "I suppose his sprint is his biggest asset, and like a lot of horses he is probably a fraction better coming from behind," Herlihy continued. "But we have never really had the chance to drive him any other way because he is off long marks most of the time. He is a pretty all-round horse though, and he wouldn't give it away easy if he was bowling along in front either."

The Sands A Flyin gelding has now headed back across the Tasman searching for retribution in the Miracle Mile - a race he was primed to win last year before disaster struck. He had won the Newcastle Mile in a sizzling 1:53.6, but just days out from the Miracle Mile his trainer received the heart-wrenching news. "He was staying at Vic Frost's, and Vic rung me on the Monday saying he wasn't happy with him at all. It wasn't his legs this time - they had always looked ugly anyway - it was his near-side hoof that was sore. We got it x-rayed and discovered a growth that was pushing against the pedal bone, so he was flown to Brisbane and ha it removed."

Sly Flyin remained in Australia for about six weeks, then had another three or four months off when he got home; everybody knew it was 'make or break' time afterwards though - Herlihy would try the gelding once more and if he didn't stand up, his career was over. Strangely enough, the 'new' Sly Flyin is as sound as he has ever been. And for that Herlihy continually praises the work by Michelle Wallis at the beach, where Sly Flyin's been stationed for most of the last 18 months.

"With all the spells he has had due to injuries, he actually hasn't had a lot of racing. And he has still got the mind of a young horse. He is very energetic, and always thrives on work and wants to be out there. We bought him up and trialled him two or three times during the winter, but then when there were no races for him we backed off again. In hindsight that was the making of his preparation - because even though he hadn't raced for eleven months, he had been in work close to six. I'm just so pleased for Michelle, because winning the Free-For-All was such a big thrill for her, and all of us. If we can keep him sound, he could be around for another year or two yet."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 22Nov06

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