YEAR: 2007


There were some big winners from the 2007 Chirstchurch Casino NZ Free-For-All, for instance: it was Dean Taylor's first Group 1 success; Waipawa Lad ran the mobile 200m in 2:22, which smashed the NZ record of 2:22.9 set by Yulestar in 2002; it gave sire Live Or Die his fourth winner on Show Day (others being Stay N Alive, Mark Antony and Runnin Outa Excuses); it was Mark Jones's third winner for the day, and while two were achieved with a supreme level of confidence in the abilities of Roburascal and Trotupastorm, the win with Waipawa Lad came from calculated brilliance.

Waipawa Lad was not one of the favourites, not after he had run ninth in the NZ Trotting Cup three days earlier; his 4:01 wasn't in the ballpark. That didn't faze Jones much. He had won 13 races with Waipawa Lad, and all but one had been sprints. He was third in the Free-For-All last year. Taylor gave owners Ron and Colin Bennett encouragement. "Dean said if we're ever going to win a Free-For-All, this will be it," said Ron.

In the form he was in, Jones could chance his arm and get away with it. And this is what he would do. Waipawa Lad flew the gate and made Baileys Dream work hard to lead him. Close-up Changeover had a tough run in the open, and further back, Monkey King had a tougher one three-wide without cover. Neither figured later, Changeover running ninth, five lengths from the winner, and Monkey King was a place and half a length behind him.

The owners of Waipawa Lad are retired Taranaki dairy farmers who now live in Christchurch. They had never raced a horse before until they bought Waipawa Lad as a weanling for $7500 from Nevele R Stud. Ron had met Taylor during the 2000 Inter-Dominions in Brisbane. "I used to bet on his horses, so I went up to him and asked him how you got started in getting a horse. I said I didn't have any money, so Dean said well we'd have to get something cheap. After a few months he phoned me up and said I'd better get to Nevele R because they were selling ones that had just been weaned. There was a paddock full of them, but I got it down to four or five and then just two. I was looking for one with big ears and a bit of room under the jaw and a wide nostril. Dean had to go to a funeral, so he just left me there," he said.

The one Ron left behind was Brownie Points, who did a job but not to the level Waipawa Lad has. Waipawa Lad is the first horse the Bennetts have raced, but now they have another and the reports are encouraging. "The stud phoned us and asked if we'd like to buy Waipawa Lad's half-brother by Red River Hanover for $15,000. We have done that, and we're told he's better than Waipawa Lad when he was at the same stage," he said.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 21Nov07

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