After being a gallant pacemaker, Oaxaca Lass fell half a length short of winning the $75,000 NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes at Addington. She put up a spirited fight, and had it been any other mare than Shortys Girl on he tail, she might well have fought the challenge off.
There had been a moment of brief hope for her supporters at the 250m mark when Shortys Girl almost looked on hold, before setting herself for something extra. And sure enough, 50 metres later Oaxaca Lass was in for it. Shortys Girl powered forward, and such was the purpose of her finish that it was quickly clear which way the cake would be cut. In the end it was decisive, and trainer/driver Allan Beck confirmed how decisive it was by saying the mare could have gone another furlong at the same clip.
On the face of it, Oaxaca Lass deserved to be favourite because she was race fit. Shortys Girl wasn't; she was fresh. Her last start was at the NZ Cup Meeting in late November, where she raced three times in ten days. In the two starts following her third in the Cup behind Gracious Knight and Facta Non Verba, she raced like a horse with the edge off her. Beck was not surprised. "She is bred on the same immediate cross as Stars And Stripes, and both of them seem to race best when they are fresh or first-up. We saw that when Stars And Stripes won the Nobilos in the spring. I worked it with her last year, she won the Wairio Cup in a jog. Then we backed up a week later at Gore and Shania Patron sat parked and beat me. The same thing happened to her at Forbury Park this time last year, in the 4-Year-Old Championship. Admittedly, I didn't drive her that good, but we were beaten by Camero and that was again after racing a week before, at Addington."
Beck was not to be fooled again. To prove it, he had her fresh for the NZ Cup Meeting, where she ran third in the Cup at long odds. And he never gave a thought to racing in the PGG Mares' Prelude, the race Oaxaca Lass won the week before. "I gave her a good trial with Makatai Galahad at home, and they had a good race up the straight and there was only a nose between them. That is all she needed, and I knew she was ready," he said.
Once she settled into the trail behind Oaxaca Lass, where Whanau might have been had she been on her game, Shortys Girl had the best trip of all. Beck could see Oaxaca Lass get softened up a little, by Hot Shoe Shuffle then Swift Mirage, but he was still cautiousas he approached the corner. "From day one, she has always run out. I was waiting for it, and could sense she thought about it. But I was ready. I just waited for her to balance up before sending her," he said.
Shortys Girl won the Breeders' Stakes last year, so joins Blossom Lady as a double winner of the race.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 05Feb03
Graham and Moira Bell have experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to harness racing. And, oddly enough, both their greatest and saddest moments relate to the same four-legged individual.
About a decade ago the Bells bought the Kentucky mare Spygirl off Curtin's Farms, who was in foal to Soky's Atom at the time. The resulting foal was Soky's Girl, and from 25 visits to the track she managed to win them one race and $4525. "She had a tonne of zip," Graham recalled. "But she got a virus early on in her career and never really got over it," he lamented.
Retired to stud, Soky's Girl's first foal was the New York Motoring filly Shorty's Girl, and while they waited for her to grow old enough to race they continued to send Soky's Girl to different stallions. "We have had nothing but bad luck breeding from her," Bell continued. "She lost a few foals, came home not in foal a couple of times, but then one year she took to In The Pocket and gave birth to a beautiful colt. Last season we were just getting ready to wean him when he died of colitis; that would be the biggest dissappointment we have had to experience."
Last Friday night at Addington, luck tossed the Roslyn Bush couple a moment they will remember for all the right reasons when Shortys Girl blitzed a quality field of mares in the $75,000 Caduceus Club of Canterbury NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes. Beautifully positioned on the outside with cover by trainer/driver Allan Beck, Shortys Girl made a mockery of her suggested inexperience when she shot away from the opposition in the straight.
From just the 13 starts, Shortys Girl has now won seven and is yet to come home without a cheque, banking $88,000. "I thought this race might have been a year too soon for her," Beck said afterwards. "She was held up when she finished fourth in the Oaks here last season, but she went 3:16 that night so I thought then that she would have a future. She has got a good engine, and a bit of speed," he said.
Back home in Invercargill over the weekend, the Bells were still buzzing from what was just their second visit to Addington Raceway. "The whole trip has been an amazing experience," Graham said. "We can't thank Allan and his partner Jo Geering enough for their dedication to the horses." The Bells, who are "in their sixties" haven't started thinking about retirement just yet. The have farmed sheep and beef on a 550-acre property in Roslyn Bush for most of their lives, but have been cutting the size of the farm down in recent years as they prepare to move to a smaller and more manageable property in Lochiel, south of Winton.
There will always be plenty of room for the horses though, and there are a few ...broodmares Spygirl, Soky's Girl, Kanegold and Browngate Happy, some 4-year-olds, a couple of 2-year-olds and two yearlings. "We like to have a bit to do with getting the horses up and running before passing them onto the likes of Allan or Tony (Barron)," Graham said. "Our neighbour Angus Mawdsley is great help, and we work them up over Winter time. We are great believers in handling the horses at a young age, and start leading them as soon as they come back from the stud on their mothers. It can make all the difference, they really respond to you," he said.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 06Feb02