Bruce Negus and Colin De Filippi are mates. And like most friends, they have had the odd difference of opinion. Their most recent one was over Caps Off, and had it not been for De Filippi's insistance the filly could have won the $75,000 Wayne Francis Memorial New Zealand Oaks for someone other than owner Trevor Casey. "I told Trevor to sell her six weeks ago," Negus admitted. "This was before and after she won at Rangiora. Colin and I had a healthy debate; he believed she was getting better and should be given the chance to improve over the next couple of seasons. But she passed the vet and was all but sold to America - the only reason she stayed is because the money didn't come," Negus said.
De Filippi must have had a wry smile as he got the best out of Caps Off to down hot pot Tupelo Rose. It was yet another masterful drive by the Ladbrooks reinsman. With Shivna, Dancingonmoonlight, Pocket Queen and Ciccio Star drawn inside him there was no shortage of early speed, but after Shivna broke De Filippi managed to get Caps Off to the front and then waited for Tupelo Rose to come round and take over. From there the pair had the best seat in the house. Tupelo Rose stacked the field up and tried to outsprint her opposition; Caps Off was equal to the task and nabbed her illustrious rival in the shadows of the post after she ran out under pressure. "She's very fast out of the gate, if she needs to be," Negus continued. "But she's a frail little thing, and she's been a bit timid and a bit weak so we've been a bit scared to use that speed. Lately she has become stronger though and Colin and I have had more confidence that she can do things."
Despite being confident that Caps Off was improving, Negus said they never envisaged her beating such a quality field of fillies. "It wasn't expected," he said. "The run was fortuitous, but in saying that she is a very determined little cookie and she deserved the win. She can follow a hot pace all day. They have got home in 56.5 tonight but she stuck to her guns. Being by Caprock out of a Nero's B B mare she is all Nevele R bred too, so it was quite fitting that she should win a race named after Wayne Francis."
Bred by Nevele R's Danny Boyle, his brother-in-law Ross Stewart and Canterbury Jockey Club's C.E.O. Tim Mills, Caps Off was first sighted by Casey when she had a workout round Addington Raceway as a yearling in July, 1998. Pacing a mile in 2:08, home in 59.4 and 28.4, the co-proprietor of Inter-Island Horse Transport bought her on the spot. Despite another horse of his, Africa, finishing second in two Inter-Dominion Trotting Grand Finals, Caps Off gave him his biggest harness racing thrill.
"Trevor's been a very good owner for the industry, and me in particular," Negus said. "Caps Off has been a bit of a heartache for him. She's put both her back legs through the fence at different times, and she must have kicked at least half a dozen people without warning. She has won five of her 11 starts though, which is pretty good considering she has been unlucky several times or only 80% fit on other occasions. She is a bossy and fearless little thing around home, and can be a real mole. She will try to get other horses to communicate with her, and once they come near she'll swing round and lash out at them. Lately that mean streak seems to have disappeared, because she has taken on Thunder Atom as a paddock mate and seems to be a lot happier since."
Credit: John Robinson writing in NZHR Weekly
By now, Tupelo Rose will be back home in Melbourne. On Saturday she was in Auckland, on Friday she was in Christchurch, winning the Hydroflow Fillies Series Final from Dancingonmoonlight and Caps Off at Addington, and on Monday trainer Ted Demmler was unsure whether she would havejust one more Oaks start this season or two.
"It all depends on her," he said. "She can have two, bu it has been a big season for her. She is not jaded. That's not the right word. But it is probably true to say that she has come back to the other fillies more than they have come up to her," he said.
Demmler blamed himself and his drive for the defeat of Tupelo Rose in the New Zealand Oaks the week before. "I was disappointed she got beaten in that race," he said. "If you get one on your back that is going well and if you get one or two niggling at you along the way, as happened in the Oaks, it makes you go a bit sooner than you would like to. On Friday night, the second and third horses both came off nice runs, but I felt at the end that my filly could have drawn away," he said.
Demmler said he was pleased with the manner in which Tupelo Rose had recovered from her Hydroflow win. "She has pulled up as if she hasn't been around. Her handler is more buggered than she is. She just loves racing, enjoys her work at home and has a wonderful constitution," he said. Demmler said he had no plans for her next season, but said the Inter-Dominions "and races like that" were out.
Demmler trains Tupelo Rose for Gordon Banks and Marc Hanover, of New York, and John Curtin, of New Zealand, who bought her from Andrew Gannell and partners for approximately $A300,000. "I haven't met her American owners," said Demmler,"but I was surprised Andrew sold her. Banks and Hanover, partners with George Shaw in the stallion Presidential Ball, were keen to align themselves with the industry while in New Zealand at Easter and told Curtin to "buy them the best filly." She has since raced six times for them, winning five and finishing a close second in the other.
"Marc and Gordon have heard ever race she has been in, and can't speak highly enough of Ted's professionalism and the way he operates," Curtin said. "They plan to leave her down here, and she will go to Presidential Ball eventually. Their plan is to re-invest down here, and they have made a great start," he said.
As it turned out, the three principals in the finish of the Oaks were the same three in the finish of the Hydroflow.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 17May00
It might be a tad too soon for the 'C word', but the 'F word' certainly got mentioned more than a few times after the running of the Group 3 Nevele R Stakes on the card of the Cheviot HRC meeting at Addington on Sunday. 'Freak', I mean, because the winning performance of Hemisphere was exactly that - freakish! And only time will tell whether she achieves 'Champion' status one day, because it's a little bit harder to be dubbed that, but no-one could doubt that she's already started down the right path.
In a display of pure ground-devouring speed, Hemisphere started her run from near last on the home turn, coasted up to the leaders in second gear and simply breezed on by. The effort was franked by driver John Hay's comments afterwards... "I was surprised how quickly she got around them," he said. "She reached the lead within a couple of bounds, and then knocked off."
Hemisphere is the pride and joy of her 53-year-old Invercargill owner/breeder John Higgins, a neighbour of the filly's trainer Murray Brown. Higgins reckons he's raced "about a hundred" horses over the years, on both sides of the Tasman, and is starting to concede that his latest winner could easily be his best yet.
Hemisphere is an all-Nevele R product, being by Badlands Hanover from the OK Bye mare Trans Tasman, the latter a half-sister to the likes of Caps Off, Glencoe MacDonald and Badlands Bute that Higgens bred after Danny Boyle lent him Te Phyno for a year. "Trans Tasman was mad, and never raced," said Higgins, who has been a life insurance broker for 35 years. "And Hemisphere was striking as a filly, nothing worried her. She was real quiet early, but was always first to the gate and first in line for her feed." That might go some way towards explaining Hemisphere's stature now, because for a 2-year-old she is tall and built like a tank. She's not really quiet anymore either, as hand-in-hand with her size is an apparent fondness for lashing out with those powerful back legs.
Higgins, Hay and Brown are obviously all good mates, and he jokes about the time he came close to selling his star filly. "John was down our way one day, and I asked him if he wanted to take Hemisphere home with him and put her in the Ready-To-Run," Higgins recalled. "And he said 'nah, I can't be bothered - keep her and race her yourself."
Now you get the feeling that even good money couldn't pry the filly from Higgins's grasp, and he humbly thanks a lot of people for the position he finds himself in today..."Maurice Kerr for the way he broke her in; Ray Faithful for the second prep; Murray and his wife Marilyn of course, and 'Archie' Armour for the way he's looked after her in her early trials and workouts - he always thought that she was a Group 1 filly. You don't like to get too carried away, but after what she has done to date it's hard not to get excited," Higgins said. Hemisphere will stay at Hay's in the meantime and then head north for next month's Caduceus Club Classic, followed by the Sires' Stakes Fillies Series and ultimately the Harness Jewels.
It hasn't all been positive for Higgins though, because he recently lost Hemisphere's yearling full-brother at the breaking-in stage when he died of a suspected heart attack. Also the dam of an as-yet-to-be-sighted 4-year-old Caprock mare and the 3-year-old Safely Kept gelding Pontificate who has had one start for a fourth, Trans Tasman was given a year off after her second Badlands Hanover and is in foal to Courage Under Fire.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 12Mar08
TE PHYNO - Mystery Mare