YEAR: 2003


Just Incredible jogged to "his race" in national record time in the $60,000 PGG NZ Yearling Sales 3yo Trot at Addington, but not without his moments. "I said to (Syndicate Manager) Mike Gourdie that this was 'his race' right at the start of the season," said trainer Michael House.

But six weeks ago, Just Incredible went awful in the Hambletonian and House was thinking "this can't be happening now" after everything had been going so perfectly. Just Incredible had been troubled by a cough and House had been at a loss to find someone with a cough mixture, before one day, out of the blue, vet Cliff McGrouther "made up a syrup which turned him around in a week."

Things fell into place nicely then, despite Just Incredible drawing awkwardly behind a number of inexperienced, uninformed and erratic competitors, who did conspire to provide a false start. Last early apart from more breakers was the place to be when Sundon filly Kristalvagen tore through the opening quarter, at which point Colin De Filippi merely had to plot a safe passage. This was as simple as circumnavigating the field as Just Incredible, despite sitting parked over the last lap, was under no sufference at all at the finish, shaving two tenths of a second off Aramid's week old record.

To underline the improving quality of young trotters these days, each of Just Incredible's four races this season have been won in record time. These have been Glenbogle's 2:28.7 (1950m), Thedonsson's unratified 1:58.7 (1609m) and Aramid's 2:27.6 (1950m) prior to Just Incredible. All of which bodes well for an exciting and keenly-fought Trotting Derby this week.

The result of the Sales race though was an outstanding success for the large Trotting NZ Syndicate, which also races Castleton's Mission, and the game in general. The syndicate and another one since with a slightly different mix were the brainchild of Gourdie and House, and given the success to date the enthusiasm from all concerned is hardly surprising. Castleton's Mission and 2-year-old winner Evening Dash were bought in the first year at the sales for $9000 and $12,000 respectively.

The first attempt at a sales race didn't quite go according to plan when Castleton's Mission went from being nine lengths in front and bolting in the run home, to having a go at pacing, but inspired by the success of these Sundon colts, they were back for another one two years later. Their first choice was Sundotcom, but Sir Roy McKenzie went to $18,000 to secure him. But House did like another one later in the day, a colt from Princess Della. "Mike said to me,'but he is such a big colt he won't go early, and he doesn't fit our criteria'," recalls House. "I said yes he does, he is out of a Group-placed mare, and just look at the head on him."

Gourdie was concerned about the fact that Princess Della was by pacing sire Last Lord, and the only known mare by him in production, and wasn't fussed about the name - Incredible Hulk - either. The criteria was that the colts have to be from Group-performed mares or producers. And so Incredible Hulk was acquired for $10,000, and then there was just the simple matter of a name change.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 26Mar03


YEAR: 2002

Just Incredible beats Solar Active & Lord Clive

Winning a race at Addington isn't easy. It is even harder when you are an erratic baby trotter who is starting from the unruly mark against a form-packed field. Throw in the fact that you cause a false start when your bit breaks and you are lucky to be brought to a halt at all, then in the re-run you are never any closer to the fence than three-wide for the first 1000 metres. And the icing on the cake hour-long enquiry to determine that you didn't interfere with one of your rivals. This is hardly a recipe for success, especially when you are trying to win a race like the NZ Trotting Stakes. To beat such odds, you have to be just incredible. And that is exactly what this trotter is.

Just Incredible overcame hurdles that seemed insurmountable when he won the Roydon Lodge-sponsored Group 2 event at Addington. Turning for home he was three lengths off the leaders and battling, and he would have been forgiven for feeling the pinch after such a tough trip. But Just Incredible would not be denied, and he picked himself up off the canvas and shot through a gap that was hardly big enough to score by half a length.

The leggy Sundon gelding is trained by Michael House, who also had the co-favourite Lord Clive in the event, which he drove himself. Colin De Filippi was called in to handle Just Incredible on this occasion, and House was regretting even asking him after what transpired on the night. "Just Incredible wears a straight rubber bit. It is the same one that Mighty Khan wore, and it has just been hanging up on the wall ever since," House said. "In his lead-up races he had been bleeding from the mouth, so we changed from a steel bit to the rubber one and got Bill Beck to do a lot of surgery on him a few days out from the Trotting Stakes. Bill pulled a dozen caps, some baby teeth and one bad wolf tooth, so it was quite an extensive operation. For some reason Just Incredible's bit broke in the run-up, and I saw him come through the middle of us. You have just got no control over the horse when this happens, and I really felt for Colin; it's a terrible feeling - you are left with a split second decision whether to hang on, or bail out. Somehow Colin managed to get him behind the mobile barrier, and that brought him to a halt."

Fitted with a replacement bit and bridle, Just Incredible and his rivals wheeled up behind the mobile for a second time. Despite the scare, House was still confident that his other runner could win. "I have always thought that Just Incredible is the best horse in this bunch of 2-year-olds," House continued. "All he needed to do was trot and he would prove it. I told Colin earlier in the week not to drive him pretty, and don't feel sorry for him. Even if he felt silly, I said to him that he could sit in the middle of the track and still win. He is such a great stayer. He has got speed - not just greased lightning speed - but there is not a horse in his grade that I would be scared to sit outside," House said.

Just Incredible is raced by the Mike Gourdie managed Trotting New Zealand Syndicate. Six of the members chipped in to buy the son of Sundon and Last Lord mare Princess Della (two wins) at the Yearling Sales, securing her for $10,000, and leased him back to the syndicate. Following on from their success with Castleton's Mission, Just Incredible is a part of the same plan that House and the syndicate members have... targeting good stakemoney for minimal out-lay. "We just can't compete with the likes of Mark Purdon, who takes home ten great pacing colts from the sales at an average of $40,000 apiece," House said. "But with trotters it is different. For less than half as much you can get yourself a good one, and you can make a big ripple in a little pool. And with trotters, the more you try, the more you get out of them. Trotting in this country is still in it's infancy, but there is so much action for a good horse. I mean, Just Incredible's owners turned down a $50,000 offer for him after his very first trial, and there has been other offers since."

Last Friday's was a bitter-sweet moment for House, despite the fact that he also ran third with Lord Clive in the event. From the promising first crop of the Valley Victory stallion Holdonmyheart, one of three stallions which House stands on behalf of principal owners Clive and Rona McKay, to win the Trotting Stakes with Lord Clive would have been the fairy-tale result. "Lord Clive probably should have won with the trip he had, and fifty metres out I thought he was going to," House said. "But I blame myself for that, because he has been up for too long. The aches and pains in his hocks just took its toll near the finish. I probably wrecked his chances by trying to prove a point at the trials earlier on, and all I can do now is look back and reflect on what might have been."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 22May02

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