Ken Barron wasn't sure if he had won two Group races in a night before. He gave himself a fair chance of winning two of the four, not so much with Stars And Stripes but Roland John, who fell to places short of doing so in the Superstars, and with Dependable. Not for the first time, he was caught out by Stars And Stripes.
He was wrong thinking the horse would be a run short in the Nobilo, though his thinking may have been coloured by the disadvantage of being on the back of one of the lesser-performed horses. As it happened, a poor draw on paper turned into a winning lottery ticket, as many on the front line eased back and within 400 metres Barron had Stars And Stripes away from the inside line and on the back of the favourite Cool Hand Luke. It was a sweet trip home from there. In a powerful burst inside the last 200m, Stars And Stripes answered the one-short suspicion as quickly as it was asked, levelling quickly with Cool Hand Luke and drawing clear to win well.
Two trial runs had brought Stars And Stripes to this level, finishing with a 56.1 half in one and in the 58s in the other. "We had a good platform to work on this time," said Barron, "unlike what he had in Sydney for the Inter-Dominions when he was the victim of a poor preparation." Stars And Stripes started like a bomb in that series, but a skinny foundation and poor draws eventually found him out.
Barron should not have been as surprised as he was that Stars And Stripes should win fresh-up. His record before this was four wins from seven starts, clearly an indication of his capability in this condition. The big question now for Barron and his training partner John Lischner as they begin the final push towards a start in the Canterbury Draught New Zealand Cup is what to do with Stars And Stripes from here. They are aware of the danger of doing too much, and the fine line of leaving him a bit soft. And with Stars And Stripes, getting it right is crucial. "It was a month between his win in the NZ Derby and the New South Wales Derby, and we did that by design," said Barron.
Stars And Stripes is three years older now, and quite possibly may only race once more - at Ashburton - before the Cup, as the connections are not keen on Kaikoura. City Rogue moved into the Cup picture with an improver's third, Kym's Girl also found the line well, but Makati Galahad showed no sign of the form that made him a big player last spring.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 09Oct02
Rumpole of the Bailey came to Addington in the disguise of Ken Barron on Easter Saturday. The portly courtroom advocate swabbed wig and gown for silk and sash as the result of the Smokefree New Zealand Derby went to the judiciary for a ruling. Besides Barron, the principals before the bench were Stipendary Steward Steve Mulcay who instigated the inquiry, Maurice McKendry, driver of Hunka Hickling who failed by a nose to beat Stars And Stripes in the classic, and Roger Sandford, Chairman of the Judicial Control panel. What developed in the room started a few minutes earlier on the track when Stars And Stripes appeared to check Hunka Hickling 50m or 60m short of the post.
But we'll just rewind at this point and place the horses about 20 seconds out from the 'offence.' From last at the 1200m, Stars And Stripes had circled the field three wide with cover from Rap, and was straightening five carts wide and about to be let down by Barron. Closer in and further back, McKendry was finding room for Hunka Hickling down on the passing lane. Within sight of the post, and clear of the others, and under a very hard drive, Stars And Stripes lost his compass and lurched across the track until he corrected himself in the passing lane area. By this time, Hunka Hickling was cutting into the same area at a fair bat and McKendry drew the ear plugs as he closed. With Stars And Stripes clear of him by at least two lengths, McKendry had to take a quick hold, considering the speed of his run, give him the right rein to steer round Stars And Stripes and wind up from there. He failed by a nose and within seconds Mulcay was on the button to have a look at it.
With the parties assembled, the first look at the side-ons, head-ons and back views of the incident did not bode well for the defence. Barron could see it was going to be no push-over. When asked how much he was affected by Stars And Stripes, McKendry did some hand signals. "No, tell us how much," said Sandford. "Three or four strides, I think. I'd say half a length. It's cost me going for him sooner." John Lischner, the trainer of Stars And Stripes who represented the owners, said: "The horse exploded clear and far too early for the others. To be dead honest, I don't agree with Mr McKendry."
Barron explained to the panel that by the time he had got down to the passing lane: "I believe my horse was two lengths clear of Hunka Hickling. I don't feel I impeded him. Mr McKendry had the entire straight to come through." Twenty minutes had passed by this stage and Sandford went to wrap it up. "If I could..." "Have you got more evidence, Mr Barron? Do you want the film again? Get up and show me," said Sandford. Barron did, and he would say later this was the turning point of the case. He went to his feet and asked for the film to be stopped just where McKendry was taking the check. "See here, where I'm this much in front. This is where I've come from. You can see I'm always in the clear." "I see your point, Mr Barron. That will do us," said Sandford.
In the time it takes to leave the room and return, Sandford was back and dismissed the charge. McKendry was disappointed. "We got a definite check, you could see that, but that's the way it goes." Later, Barron would say that revisiting the film at the conclusion of the inquiry was the turning point. "I felt it wasn't illustrated enough earlier. I had to show again how far clear he was of Hunka Hickling when he got down there," he said.
Barron admitted that Stars And Stripes went past the leaders with more acceleration than he expected. "I thought it might have taken fifty or eighty metres to do the job, but he got past them in three strides. I either over-rated the others he was passing or under-rated what he can do with a finish like that. I don't know what you think, but I reckon he could have won by five lengths had he run it straight," he said. Barron said he thought the tendancy of Stars And Stripes to race in a vague direction on his own may be a trait of stock sired by New York Motoring. He recalled that Master Musician, by the same horse, did the same when he ran clear in the New Zealand Cup only to be collared by Bee Bee Cee.
Now the biggest stake earner in New Zealand this season, ahead of Lyell Creek and Homin Hosed, Stars And Stripes has one more race this season, the New South Wales Derby at Harold Park at the end of May.
The best of those behind Hunka Hickling was Handoverbid, a stablemate of the winner, who led in the middle stages and then trailed Written In The Stars.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRNZ Weekly
The picture regarding this week's NZ Derby is a little fuzzier after the running of the last lead up in the $50,000 Newstalk ZB Flying Stakes. When most thought Stars And Stripes' main opposition would come in the form of either Falcon's Blue Jean or Mike's Pal, another Purdon-trained obstacle has emerged in Hunka Hickling.
And while his background comes from mainly loose class racing, Hunka Hickling and Maurice McKendry showed they will pose plenty of problems in the blue ribbon event after sitting three wide and in the open over the last lap, outside Mike's Pal and Stars And Stripes, before upsetting them in a thrilling finish.
McKendry, driving the Miles McCool gelding for the first time, was as surprsed as anyone by Hunka Hickling getting his nose in front of a game Mike's Pal, who came back from being half a neck in arrears of Stars And Stripes at the furlong only to lose the race in the photo. "He had been going good races, but I didn't know much about him," said McKendry. "But I will be liking him even more if he can keep doing that," he added.
Hunka Hickling, trained by Mark Purdon for his breeders Tony and Mrs Ann Parker, will be out to go one better for that combination's Sharp And Telford's second in the 1996 Derby behind The Court Owl. Sharp And Telford, a half-brother to Hunka Hickling's dam Wishing, by Soky's Atom, went on to win an Auckland Cup before a tendon injury prematurely curtailed his career, while the Parkers also enjoyed good success with Purdon and Stevies before selling him for good money last year.
Purdon and the connections of Mike's Pal and Stars And Stripes know that this week's race will be another story however. Purdon, who has won four recent Derbies with Mark Roy, Il Vicolo, The Court Owl and Bogan Fella, will team up with Falcon's Blue Jean and was far from disconsolate with that gelding's ninth last week. "Nothing was making up much ground from the rear in the sprint home and being his first run for three weeks, he will be much sharper for the race," said Purdon.
Tony Herlihy was also quite happy with Mike's Pal foe trainer Barry Purdon, who has himself trained Derby winners in Kiwi Scooter, Ginger Man and Holmes DG in recent years. "That was the first time he has led up I think and he wasn't too sure what it was all about," said Herlihy. "Stars And Stripes got half a neck up on us before he figured it out and he has come back really well," he added.
"It is a little disappointing, but we are quite happy with the ball in our court." Those were the sentiments of Stars And Stripes trainer John Lischner and they were echoed by driver Ken Barron. "About the only time he has been beaten has been on a slow pace, and it is highly unlikely the Derby will be slow," said Lischner. They have gotten away with a quarter in 35 tonight, but that won't happen gain," he added. Lischner was referring to the fact that Hunka Hickling recorded 2:27.3 for the 1950m trip, the leaders dashing in from the 400m in better than 27 seconds in a time which was over six seconds slower than Happy Asset two races later in the Nobilo Wines.
Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 19Apr00
The finish to Cup Day's $150,000 NRM Sires' Stakes Final was full of stars and stripes. The horse by that name was there in the photo, but so were the colours - John Lischner's pink and black stripes, and Mark Purdon's royal blue with grey stars.
There have been numerous titanic battles between the two great horsmen, in training premierships as well as individual races, and Tuesday's 3-year-old event was no exception. This time it was Lischner's representative that got the biggest plum, Stars And Stripes holding gamely to the lead that Purdon's runner Falcon's Blue Jean ate into with a big home straight finish. Lischner had three horses in the Final, which is a unique achievement in itself. Outside of them filling the quinella or trifecta, probably his biggest wish was for the result that eventuated - winning, with Purdon's horse second.
"He is the best mate I've got in the industry," Lischner said afterwards. "We even baby sat his house when he was away on his honeymoon, and when we sent Emcee up north in the late-80s that gave him his first drive on a Cup class horse," he recalled. Talking of Emcee, he ran second in Megatrend's Sires' Stakes Final, and it is something he will never forget.
"With Stars And Stripes we had the perfect draw, and we got the perfect run - this is just one of those moments that you will always treasure."
There were a few anxious moments for the country's leading trainer though; right-hand-man and driver Ken Barron sat patiently three-back on the outer before making his move 600 metres out, and the New York Motoring gelding quickly zipped up to the leaders. "He was in front within a matter of strides, and I thought he had got to the lead too easy and too soon. I was hoping he wouldn't knock off once he was in front - he has done it in the past and it has cost him races. We have tried him in front at home and he is just no good, so Ken has had to change his style a bit when he drives this one," Lischner said, smiling.
The Ashburton horseman has never shelved his opinion of Stars And Stripes, freely admitting that he is the best that has been through the stable since Tartan Clansman. That former top pacer won nine races and was in the money 21 out of 27 times but never reached open class, so why the big wrap? "He set a New Zealand 2200m record in the wet at Alexandra Park, and four months later in the Superstars Final here at Addington he lost at least 70 metres at the start and still beat Master Musician - and that was in the wet too. I haven't seen too many horses do that."
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 11Nov99