YEAR: 1989

Stable Foreman Hamish Molloy with 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


YEAR: 1989

Dillon Dean outfinises Inky Lord to win the 1989 NZ FFA

Dillon Dean's win in the $100,000 Air New Zealand N Z Free-For-All could have been helped by trainer Don Dwyer standing closer to the winning post to watch the race. Well, at least Dwyer knew where his Shicker gelding had finished. "I got fooled in the Cup. I thought he had run third," Dwyer said, "but I didn't have any doubts today."

Dillon Dean's victory over Inky Lord was a total turn around from the DB Draught New Zealand Cup. Inky Lord had come from a 'mile' behind in the Cup, yet in the FFA the roles were reversed and Dillon Dean came off Inky Lord's back to win.

Dwyer now has a 100% record in the Free-For-All. His only other runner was Dillon Dean's half-brother Dillon Dale, who brilliantly won the coveted event in 1984. Ironically, Dillon Dale had run a placing in the Cup that year, running third to Camelot after losing a tonne of ground at the start.

Driver Colin De Filippi was full of admiration for the powerful pacer after the event. "He'd have to be the best horse I've driven," he said. "I was a little further back than I would have liked, but he just went when I asked him to," he said.

Credit: Harness Racing Weekly


YEAR: 2009


Robert Famularo didn't mind who knew - he was emotional before the running of the $1m Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway.

After it was over, he had the immense pleasure of reporting the news to everyone. Because minutes after he stopped crying listening to the National Anthem, Monkey King brought a new wave of tearful joy by winning the Cup with a swooping run wide out on the track. "I was crying before the race and I cried after it."

That was after Monkey King, which he races with his wife Kerry and daughters Sara and Michelle under the Cavalla Bloodstock banner, had delivered the killer blow to the Aussie hopes, Smoken Up and Karloo Mick. No sooner had he done that when Bettor's Strike whistled out of the pack, slipping between the weakening Karloo Mick and a tiring but trying Kiwi Ingenuity, to close quickly and run him to a neck.

Famularo knew that if one horse deserved a reward at this high level, it was Monkey King. "It would have been a travesty if he endeed his career without a triumph such as this." Monkey King had gone close before, beaten a whisker by Flashing Red two years ago. Last Year, it was more of the same for Cavalla, beaten with Baileys Dream by Changeover. "It's been a difficult two years, coming to this one. I made a real effort to stay calm and collected. I love Monkey King and I'm so proud of him."

In fact, Famularo cast his passion net much further, praising his pivotal pair, trainer Benny Hill and driver Ricky May. "I can't underestimate the great strength that Benny brings to our operation. He loves these animals and so does Ricky. What's so wonderful about Ricky is that we are always presented with a racehorse each time when he gets back."

Famularo, who inherited his interest in racing from his father who liked a bet and his involvement from a successful company in the building industry, bought his first horse 30 years ago and has expanded to create a boutique breeding and racing establishment in North Canterbury. Monkey King came as a $20,000 purchase by initial trainer Steven Reid from the Premier Yearling Sales, and Famularo later bought his sire, Sands A Flyin.

Famularo is the first to admit that Hill and May have greater responsibilities than he has. "I can afford to be detached, and balance emotion with the objective. They must finish the business." In that respect, he has his horses in kind and clever hands. But Famularo has his eye on wider targets. "There has got to be another challenge. Whatever it is, we have got a long way to go."

Unlike the quiet and retiring Famularo, it is a flamboyant ambition but one they could well achieve.



Benny Hill has arrived in harness racing's fast lane quicker than he thought. Not so long ago, he was a loyal offsider for Steven Reid, then a training partner. But less than two years ago, when Reid threw in with Graeme Rogerson, Hill was left with the pleasant burden of looking after Monkey King, Baileys Dream, Harley Earl and some others with tidy connections.

Hill had done six years as a junior with Reid and had schooled well. "Four years ago my life changed. My wife and I split up. It was a big move to come south, and certainly a bit nerve-wracking. When I took over Dancingonmoonlight, it was really an extension of what I had already been doing," he said.

Having driven Monkey King in 2006 and in every start over the past 18 months, May was already part of the team. His patient style appeared to suit Monkey King, who has a lightning sprint but was always toey at the start. At the Met's Easter Meeting, Monkey King looked more like the professional racehorse he promised to be. "From that time onwards, you could notice a change. The stands were still a concern, but not the major worry they were."

Hill was so happy with the horse that he said he could do nothing more to improve him. Midway through the afternoon, he left the course with fellow trainer Laurence Hanrahan for a raspberry and coke. "But I was relaxed. It was only when I heard the National Anthem that I got a bit nervous."

Hill said May gave Monkey King a drive that suited the horse. "It was perfect. I just hand him the reins. But he comes and gets to know our horses, and he came up and drove four at the workouts for us last week: his job, not mine."

For Hill, Monkey King has now raced 10 times for seven wins and two seconds.



Super-cool Ricky May has become one of only two to drive the winners of four New Zealand Cups. He won with Monkey King on Tuesday, which followed those of Inky Lord, Iraklis and Mainland Banner. Todd Mitchell has won four, with Just An Excuse(twice), Homin Hosed and Gracious Knight, and they are both one behind the great Cecil Devine whose five wins were with False Step(three), Van Dieman and Thunder.

May's first hurdle was to get Monkey King off the mark, and he stood slightly ahead of Awesome Armbro to be on the safe side. He was away in good order, but settled well back while Pembrook Benny set off hard and Karloo Mick carried it on, and so did Smoken Up. So the Australians ran to the mile one and two, Pembrook Benny placed nicely three-back, while Washakie and Mr Feelgood were at times parked.

With a lap to run, Power Of Tara moved round, bringing up Kiwi Ingenuity and Monkey King caught the back of her. Near the 500 metres, Kiwi Ingenuity made her move, circling wide. May could see Smoken Up and Karloo Mick lower on the track, working hard, and the worring signs of Pembrook Benny looking strong behind them. "I was still back a bit on the bend, and I didn't know whether we'd be able to pick them up or not. I'd had a good run till then, but felt they were running along a bit - what time did we go? I could have sat longer, but I could see that Robbie (Holmes) was a bit flat and I looked up and saw the others were further ahead than I thought."

This is what Monkey King loves best - to spring from cover, a chase and a hard sprint. It was a Tua-type blow. Just when he had done that, Dexter Dunn found a gap for Bettor's Strike between Karloo Mick and Kiwi Ingenuity, which appeared to incovenience the mare when Karloo Mick ran out. Driver Greg Bennett was later fines $500 for it. "I've never been so excited," May said. "I'm so rapt for the horse. He's never had the accolades he has deserved."

Like Hill, May said he saw the change in Monkey King start six months ago. "He's great over two miles, and he is really quite versitile. Inky Lord was one-dimensional, in that he had to sprint. Iraklis was a bit like that, and Mainland Banner was tough but did not have the speed that he has."

May was later fined $500 for overuse of the whip and Lance Justice, the driver of Smoken Up, was fined the same for the same offence.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 12Nov09


YEAR: 2009

Ricky May's 2000th winner

There was no whip fourish, just a sly smile of satisfaction on the face of Ricky May as he drove Tara Royale to his 2000th success at Rangiora yesterday. May's modest demeanour suggested it was just another race, but the win put his name in New Zealand harness-racing record books.

In a career that has seen the Methven reinsman win nearly every major race in New Zealand and Australia, May became only the third New Zealand harness-racing driver to reach the 2000-win mark, joining driving legends Maurice McKendry and Tony Herlihy.

Racegoers got their first look at Ricky May successes at the Geraldine racecourse on November 27, 1976, when he drove Ruling River to victory. The horse went on to win another seven races with May in the sulky. "She was owned by my grandmother (Anne May)," May said. "I was in the one-one early, but got shuffled back a wee bit. It was a pretty tight finish, but we won the race, and that was the start of things, really. She got me going."

In a time when it was tough for a junior driver to get a break in the game, May managed 20 wins in his first four seasons in the sulky. The real fun began when May teamed up with fellow Mid-Cantabrian Brian Saunders. The pair quickly struck up a training-driving partnership with an impressive strike rate that started with Miss Bromac, which won the Greymouth Cup.

Miss Bromac incidentally gave May his first New Zealand Cup win in the form of her son Inky Lord, which, to this day, is one of the most talked-about New Zealand Cup victories in the 105 runnings of the great harness race. Inky Lord appeared to be wiped out with 500 metres left to run, but made a remarkable comeback to win. "It's hard to name what was exactly my best moment, but your fist NZ Cup win is always special," May said. "He (Inky Lord) gave me some of my best moments in the game, but he also gave me some of my worst." A year after his breathtaking victory in the Cup, Inky Lord looked on song to make it two from two, before suffering a heart attack after the Cup Trial a week before the big race. "He felt awesome that day, too. It was gut-wrenching," May said. "I really think he could have won back-to-back Cups."

Two more New Zealand Cup victories were on the cards for May with Iraklis in 1997 and then Mainland Banner in 2005. "Mainland Banner would get the greatest performance of any horse that I have ever driven. She started out having her first start on Boxing Day, and 11 months later she won the NZ Cup, as well as nearly all of the major fillies races in between."

Renowned as one of the most patient drivers in racing, May early on based his driving style on Mike De Filippi and Peter Jones who were leading drivers at the time of his introduction to the game. It was that patience that earned May major respect from his peers, opponents and critics alike, although nowdays May sees it as something that cannot always be emulated. "Brian (Saunders) liked his horses driven quietly, so that fitted in with the way I liked to drive. You can't do it so much these days, just with the way that things have changed, but it still comes in handy every now and then." it was fitting then that May's 2000th winner came courtesy of just such a drive on Tara Royale yesterday.

The Dave Thompson-trained runner was given the prefect run by May, and when asked to give at the top of the straight, the Live Or Die filly gave plenty and cleared away for victory by three-quarters of a length. "It's a pretty big relief to finally get there actually. I drove Vita Man to win the Ashburton Flying Stakes in 1982 for Ray Anicich, who owns Tara Royale, so that makes it all the more special. He's pretty over the moon about it, too.

So the main question is where to now? May isn't too sure, but leaving the driving ranks isn't on the cards yet. I'll keep on going. I have been pretty lucky in having both trainers and owners who have been loyal to me and stuck with me throughout the years, and they will soon let me know when I'm not driving any good. "I haven't won an Interdominion or an Auckland Cup, but I am not too worried. If Monkey King was to come back next season as good as when he finished this one, he could get me one of them; he was fair flying before he went for a spell."

Three thousand wins paints a picture of a long road ahead, but it only took a matter of hours for May to get win number 2001 when Eisenhower crossed the line first later in the day yesterday, so who knows? Anything could be possible.

Credit: Matt Markham writing in The Press 29 June 2009


YEAR: 1991


Dynamic, charismatic, electrifying, courageous - these four words sum up the qualities which made Inky Lord one of the most popular horses ever to grace the tracks of New Zealand.

It is now seven days since the Adington faithful watched, in stunned disbelief, as desperate attempts were made to revive Inky Lord after he collapsed following the New Zealand Cup trial at Addington. And, having hand-timed Inky Lord throughout the trial myself, I found it hard to believe a horse who had just completed his task so well could - barely seconds later - have life snatched away. A post-mortem revealed Inky Lord suffered a ruptured aorta. There was no way the horse could be saved.

Inky Lord was a vibrant source of enjoyment for his legion of fans, as well as the people who bred, reared, owned, trained and drove him throughout his memorable career. Earlier this week, the Saunders family of Mid-Canterbury were still coming to terms with the death. Methven farmer Gavin Saunders bred Inky Lord. And during the early days of Inky Lord's life, Saunders, his wife Sheryn and members of his family, fought to save the colt after he was unable to latch onto the teats of his dam, the El Patron mare Miss Bromac.

"It is still hard to accept he is gone," said Gavin on Monday. "He was one in a million. If I bred another million horses in my lifetime I'd never get another Inky Lord. I knew he had a following, but I didn't know how great until we started to receive phone calls from people all over the country. Some of them were very moving. It was also a pity it happened at Addington. If he had injured himself in a paddock it might have been a bit easier to take. Had he been a gelding or mare it still would have been painful, but being a colt Inky Lord had so much to offer the industry. For him to die at such a young age was tragic. I went to Brian's on Sunday to pick up some hay. I walked past box No.9 and it was empty. That's when it really struck home."

Inky Lord was trained by Gavin's brother, Brian. After a number of setbacks last season, Inky Lord had responded to Brian's expertise this term and seemed to be right on target to reproduce top form. When he died, it was five days short of two years since Inky Lord had grabbed the public's attention and earned a place in the nation's folklore with his breathtaking triumph in the 1989 New Zealand Cup. Inky Lord fought-back from a severe check with 450m to run, to snatch victory from Dillon Dean short of the post.

Methven horseman Ricky May drove Inky Lord in all but one of his races. Understandably, May was extremely distressed after Inky Lord's death, but one had to admire the man's professionalism afterwards. He continued to drive through the rest of the night's programme and went close to winning the very next race, behind Kumbuk. May did score later on behind the smart two-year-old Tricky Bachelor.

Inky Lord raced 50 times for stake-earnings of $756,740, the result of 21 wins and 16 minor placings. Eleven of the wins were at Addington.

Credit: Tony Clifford

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