YEAR: 2003


Peter Revill felt a gentle nudge in the side of his ribs as he thumbed through the pages of his PGG catalogue. It was a beautiful sunny day back in March 2001, and Peter and his wife Wendy had stopped off at Yarndley Farms during an inspection tour to watch a parade of yearlings. They were shopping for a horse, and stood like two wide-eyed kids in front of a toy shop window.

"Oohh, I like that one," Wendy murmured to her husband, pointing to a striking individual with a rich, reddy-brown coat. Looking up to catch the horses lot number, 132, Peter turned to the corresponding page in his book and realised that by coincidence he had already marked it. This horse buying business was all new to the couple, and there were guidelines to follow; whatever they bought had to be a filly, because they were looking for a broodmare first and foremost, and she had to be by Soky's Atom, that was Peter's wish. Lot 132 was both, and got a big tick placed next to her name. Wendy noted that the filly was also called Classical, which was exactly the sort of studies she was doing at the time, so that was enough for her.

The Revills kept their options open though, and came Sale Day the choices had been norrowed down to three...Fantasy Star, Classical and Listen To The Rhythm. And of course there was also the budget to consider. The first on the list was going under the hammer in Christchurch, so Peter flew down from the North Island specifically. But he returned home empty-handed, having been one of the last to shake his head at $26,000. Off to Karaka the next day, and Geoff Small did the bidding on behalf of the Revills, securing Classical $20,000; within half an hour, someone else paid $80,000 for Listen To The Rhythm.

History now shows that the couple couldn't have made a better choice. Fantasy Star was renamed Personality Plus and has won three races and $30,528 to date; Listen To The Rhythm has saluted the judge just as many times for $47,823 in stakes, and Classical's record stands at four victories and $247,565.

The most recent of those wins came at Addington last Friday night, when Classical beat the other two fillies and eight others in a powerhouse display in the PGG Yearling Sale Series Fillies Final. It was the 3-year-old's first victory this season, and ended a frustrating couple of months for trainer Geoff Small. "That's an understatment," agreed the Patumahoe horseman, sighing with relief. "It has been a pretty soul-searching experience. She didn't have one main problem, just lots of little ones. And there wasn't anything we could pinpoint - nothing we could actually fix. It was worse than having a bad horse in the stable - at least you know that they can't perform any better."

Small says the decision to bring Classical to Christchurch wasn't made until after a workout on February 1, and even he wasn't completely convinced. "But Peter said to go for it," he cotinued. "She had a messy week, what with a couple of days travelling and then a trial at Rangiora on the Friday where she ran second to Mister D G. But I wasn't real happy with her; it wasn't a workout that I thought would be good enough to win the Final." The tide turned last Monday though, when Small put the half blinds on Classical and gave her a private run at Addington. "She worked super, coming her last quarter in twenty-six seconds flat.

Wearing the new gear again at Addington last Friday, driver Maurice McKendry felt that she was the Classical of old, saying that when he asked her to sprint to the lead she accelerated so fast that she "dug holes in the track." Small is not convinced that they are out of the woods just yet though, and for that reason he has only planned as far ahead as next week's Nevele R Fillies Heat.

But for the Revills, who leased a racing share in Classical to their friends Owen Whyte, Mike Ringrose and Dean Biddlecombe, they are back on cloud nine once again. Peter, 60, is a retired bank manager, and Wendy, 49, calls herself "a compulsive student." She recently completed a bachelor's degree in psychology, and has started on her next assignment, a diploma in classical studies. "That is my passion," she said. Peter has been back at the sales this week, and this time he was looking for a colt.

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 19Feb03


YEAR: 2003

Pullover Brown & Anthony Butt

The 2003 Wayne Francis Memorial NZ Oaks will be remembered for more reasons than the win by Pullover Brown. Foremost will be the dramatic failure of the hot favourite Champagne Princess. Next will be the astonishingly quick time Pullover Brown took to win the race; her 3:11.8 clipping more than a second off the New Zealand record of 3:13 held by Elect To Live.

Add to that the fact Geoff Small had four of the 14 starters in the race; Alta Serena was relegated from third for causing interference to Unrehearsed and Lady Toddy; Anthony Butt continued to bag May's biggies, and Mayor Heather set the race alight when driver Jo Herbert refused the chance of a trail behind Champagne Princess. This was where the race director gave up and left the players to run it themselves.

Jack Smolenski had worked Champagne Princess smoothly through the pack, and after 600 metres only Mayor Heather stood between a hard run in the open and a controlling one in front. As to be expected, Smolenski pressed on. But he was soon surprised, then alarmed, to find that Herbert was not thinking the way Smolenski thought she should have. When he got to the mile peg, after running hard for 400 metres, Smolenski took hold of Champagne Princess, giving the impression of dropping into the trail while there was still time to do so. But this was not an option Smolenski considered. "I didn't know much about the other horse, except it was trained somewhere in the North Island, and I didn't want to run the risk of getting in there," he said. Champagne Princess sat parked, where she pulled hard.

Butt was head of the chasing pack, and he settled Pullover Brown behind Mayor Heather until moving off the marker line at the 500 metres. Champagne Princess was disappearing quicker than a dropped stone on the corner, where Alta Serena was causing trouble to Unrehearsed and consequent interference to one or two others. Mayor Heather also left the stage pretty quickly in the straight, and that's where Pullover Brown pulled away to win by more than two lengths.

While it was all going Pullover Brown's way, the running of the race was not entirely favourable to her stablemate Classical. Going the speed they were meant late gaps and spaces for the back runners, and Classical and Coburg both came generously into the finish in this manner. Classical was four-deep on the markers, and cut a healthy chunk out of Pullover Brown's margin inside the final 200 metres.

Pullover Brown is raced by a syndicate of five headed by Chris McLeod, who had not been to Addington before, nor Chrischurch for that matter. With a group of friends, he leased Dinavinetto from Steve and Anne Phillips, and raced her for a win and six placings from 43 starts out of the Shane Hayes stable. She was then returned to the Phillips for breeding, who put her in foal to Armbro Operative. "I was actually quite taken with Dinavinetto, and then I spotted a weanling filly by Armbro Operative being offered at an all age sale up here," said Mcleod. "We bought her for $2,500. We didn't have a trainer for her, but I had my eye on Geoff Small because I knew he was so good with young horses. I just phoned him, but he didn't know me," he said.

Anne had originally bought Dinavinetto, by Fitch II from the Mercedes mare Precious Dina, at Ted Hooper's Dispersal Sale, and they still have her but perhaps not for long. "We have an Iraklis filly and one by D M Dilinger from the mare, so we have the breed. We have offered Dinavinetto, in foal to Armbro Operative, to the syndicate, so she's there if they want her," she said. Phillips was in Christchurch for the week, caring for her father Des Grice who has been in ill-health, and extended her stay when Pullover Brown made the field for the Oaks.

Along with Operation Dynamite and Armbro Innocence, Pullover Brown has carried the banner for Armbro Operative, which is good news for buyers who were able to buy his stock at deflated prices at the recent PGG yearling sales.

Small, who has made a meal of winning big races at Addington over the last 12 months - with Elsu and Classical - said that he believed that the Armbro Operatives had a preference to sitting on the pace. "Most of the Armbro Operatives I've seen seem to like it that way," he said.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in NZHR Weekly

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