Thirty-year-old Templeton horseman Peter Jones was shaking. His wife Lois was nearly in tears. The couple's daughter Philippa was completely overcome. And their young son Mark just wanted to give his hero a hug and pat the horse. Borana had just won the $225,000 Toyota NZ Cup at Addington with Peter Jones at the helm. The joy of the Jones family said it all.
Five years earlier - 1980 - Peter Jones had driven in his first NZ Cup and reined home Hands Down in a great tactical victory over North Island idol Delightful Lady.
That was a feat that Jones cherished. Last Tuesday, however, Jones not only drove the Cup winner but was also the trainer. With his first runner in the NZ Cup, Peter Jones, just over 12 months into his professional training career, completed something all New Zealand trainers dream about.
This year's NZ Cup had been won by Australian visitor Preux Chevalier before the race had been run, according to the pundits. The much vaunted West Australian pacer was backed down to very short odds. But, like most short priced Cup favourites, he was beaten.
Roydon Glen was to offer the Australian his toughest opposition. A noted Australian journalist was quoted in the local Christchurch morning daily that Preux Chevalier would win by a "street". Roydon Glen's trainer-driver Fred Fletcher was in something of a quandary before the race. "I'm still trying to figure out how far a street is," said Fletcher. "Just how much do I have to get beaten by?"
Borana's chances of beating the first and second favourites were not accorded much public support. At totalisator close, he was the rank outsider of the field. His chances indeed looked remote after being well beaten in atrocious conditions in the Kaikoura Cup then finishing out of a place in the Cup trials the previous Thursday.
Someone, however, forgot to tell Borana and Peter Jones of the situation. After giving all but an earlier breaker in Spry Joker a start with 1000 metres to run, Borana came with the last run to win going away by one and a quarter lengths, returning his backers over $76 to win, the biggest Cup upset of all time. Closest to him at the line was Our Mana. He was three quarters of a length clear of Roydon Glen with a short head back to Preux Chevalier. Comedy Lad, Camelot and the pacemaking Premiership were close up next. Borana returned to a great reception, although one section of the crowd gathered by the birdcage decided they had the right to spoil Jones' occasion with booing and cat-calls.
For Borana, a six-year-old stallion by Boyden Hanover out of the Out To Win mare Aoranam, the Cup victory was his 18th career win. The $135,000 winner's cheque doubled his stake earnings to $247,645, a total brought in from 95 starts.
"It's every owner's dream to win this race, and we did it today," said Borana's part-owner John Murray at the presentation. "We owe a lot to Peter (Jones) and his boys for the way they have prepared this horse," Mr Murray added, "this win is as much for them as it is for us." Mr Murray, an administrator with the IHC in Dunedin, races Borana in partnership with his wife Doreen. The couple acquired Borana when the horse was just seven months old. The then colt was advertised for sale in the NZ Trotting Calendar. Peter Shand, son of Washdyke trainer-driver George Shand noticed the advertisement and, because he knew the couple were looking for a horse, told John Murray, who purchased the colt soon after for $2,000.
Placed in the care of George Shand, Borana quickly showed ability and at two raced 12 times for six wins, including victories in the Rangiora Raceway Stakes, Forbury Juvenile Stakes and Oamaru Juvenile Stakes. A leg injury at two sidelined the colt for a while and he missed a chance of competing in the major juvenile events.
Back at three, Borana competed with the best. He raced 18 times, winning four and being placed in 12 other races, bringing in stakes of $28,185. Two of his wins were recorded in the NZ Championship Stakes and the Mercer Mile, the latter victoy in 2:00.7.
At four, Borana was second best pacer of his age behind Nostradamus. He raced 34 times, recording seven wins and 13 placings, returning his owners $45,095. Wins at this age came in the Te Awamutu Cup (2:00.1), Cambridge Classic, DB Superstars heat and a heat of the Messenger. Borana raced 24 times last season without success. His first eight appearances were from George Shand's stable, then the stallion changed quarters soon after the NZ Cup meeting last November and joined Peter Jones' team.
A successful junior driver, holding the record for the most wins as a junior until recently beaten by his nephew Anthony Butt, Jones decided to branch out into training and acquired a property that backed on to his father's establishment at Templeton.
Borana had his first outing in Jones' black and white colours at Alexandra Park on December 22. Not 12 months later, those colours were brought back at the head of the NZ Cup field. "I was lucky I suppose," said Jones. "Not many trainers get a horse with an open-class assessment to begin with." Lucky or not, Jones has quickly made his mark as a trainer, not only with Borana but with other horses including Laser Lad, likely favourite for the $125,000 Fay, Richwhite Sires'Stakes Final last Friday. "It was a thrill to win with Hands Down in 1980," said Jones, "but to win today and also train the winner, well, I can tell you it's an incredible feeling." Jones added that he felt for the Fred Fletchers and Barry Perkins of the world. "Those blokes had all the pressure on them, press, radio, television, everything. We had no pressure on us at all, no one even came out to get our autographs during the week leading up to the race. It was nice to be able to relax and take the race as it came."
Jones said he was slightly confident of success before the race. "As confident as you can get when there is opposition like Preux Chevalier and Roydon Glen," he said. "I knew this fellow was the best I had had him since he came here, and I knew he would go a top race. It was just a matter of getting a good run and staying out of trouble. Peter Jones has no set plans for the horse. "I will take them as they come." A trip to Brisbane for the Albion Park Inter-Dominions in April? "No, no thoughts on that at this stage."
Our Mana, so often the bridesmaid in big cup events, again had to play second fiddle, as he had done to Camelot in last year's event. Left in the open early Colin De Filippi gave the Schell Hanover gelding a beautiful run in the one-one from the 1800 metres after Preux Chevalier looped the field to sit without cover. De Filippi had Our Mana poised on the leader's wheels as they swung for home. He loomed up to Premiership 150 metres out and looked set to win. "We had every chance," said Colin De Filippi. "I thought we had a chance when we got to the front inside the 200 metres but I could hear Borana coming and knew he was going much too well for us." Some consolation for owner Jenny Barron was that the $45,000 second prize money boosted Our Mana's earnings over $200,000. The gelding has now won $240,720.
Second favourite Roydon Glen was third, and looked decidedly unlucky. Away well, he ended up five back on the fence early, then four back. He had a wall of horses both in front and beside him with 600 metres to run and had no pacing room at all. Clear late, Roydon Glen accelerated too quickly and paced roughly. Once balanced by Fred Fletcher, he roared home down the outside but it was too late, Borana had the race in safe keeping.
A short head away in fourth was Preux Chevalier. Slow then into a break in the first 50 metres, the West Australian settled several lengths off the leaders early. He had caught the bunch with 2400 metres to run, then driver Barry Perkins sent his charge on a sweeping run towards the lead. Instead of continuing on, Perkins elected to sit without cover. There they stayed until the home turn. Preux Chevalier issued a challenge and kept on fighting, but the expected winning margin of a "street" was nowhere to be found.
Comedy Lad was a length back fifth. Tony Herlihy had the gelding handy on the fence but try as he might in the straight the gaps did not come.
Camelot was sixth. The 1984 Cup winner was given a good run by Robin Butt. He improved three wide to be challenging on the turn and kept coming, though not suited by the slow pace.
Premiership was next in, a nose back. He set the pace, not the 3:59 pace many had expected, but a muddling pace. He looked to be going well on the turn and still had control as close as 150 metres out. He was dive-bombed only in the final few metres.
Credit: Brian Carson writing in NZ Trotting Calendar
1985 was a year of upsets and turmoil. Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior was sunk at its moorings in Auckland Harbour, Lieutenant Colonel Rambuka led a military coup in Fiji, Auckland lifted the shield of Canterbury and from the racing viewpoint Borana won the Cup!