This is the story of a horse called Was That You, he was a very, very quick Langfuhr gelding, but he also had some baaaad knees. At the time he was owned by a very big bloodstock agent, with most of this agents clients based in Hong Kong. This agent (again at the time) owned between 25-30% of the stable I worked at, with one plan. Get them 100% fit, get them winning their trials like Pharlap and selling them for top dollar overseas. (This is before all trials became as official as they are today). That’s where this blokes story takes a full 180 degree turn.
As stated, his knees were terrible. Even after 20 minutes on the walker twice a day, he would be boxed up with ice wraps around both knees for another 20 minutes. Every time. (Yeah it was boring. But it got me out of picking shit up haha) One brilliant thing about that boring job though was the rapport you build with the horse. There was also old Bomber Bill who used to get the ice boots after any work. The bond I built with both horses from sitting on an upturned bucket twice a day, 7 days a week, will live with me forever.
Anyhow, getting back to the story. I think it was November or December in 2004 we head off in the float to the Bendigo trials with him. It’s his 2nd trial. He won his first trial at Cranbourne, to then be sold on to Hong Kong interests. Well he failed that second vets test, after failing his first, with a question mark now over his career. At Bendigo, he comes out and wins by 7 or 8 lengths with his head on his chest.
Failed vets test………. again.
Now I can’t remember the specifics at all here. Either if you failed 3 tests HKJC just ban the horse, or the owner just gave up trying to sell and kept him because of his talent. It was one of the two. The trainer smiled like a virgin breaking his crown for weeks when it was known that this “freak” was now staying. Now fast forward a couple of months (I’m positive it was February 05) and he has just finished his last hard hit out in a jump out before his first race in a few days time.
Now, at Flemington back then and maybe still now, you used to walk your horses under the tunnel (at approximately the 1000 metre mark on the bend, not the straight) from the stables saddled up, to swap with the rider with the horse they are on. You then take the horse back to the stables to do each individual horses own need. A swim, on the walker or just a hose down. Whatever the boss wanted with each horse on each day.
Anyhow, Was That You has just won his jump out in ridiculously easy fashion. Back then it was all just handheld timing as jump outs were far from official, but you could also tell it was good time on the eye. Now the jockey who rode him had only just come second in the Newmarket Handicap a week or two before this jump out. This wasn’t the race day jockey Nash Rawiller. He has jumped off, looked at me and said, quote “Who. The. F#ck. Is. This?”. I just laughed and told him. He then asked when it’s running and I told him on the upcoming Sunday. He again just looked at me and said, quote “Unload your f#cking wallet on it brother”.
Sunday comes and we get to the Colac track. I unload him from the float, and he’s in a lather of sweat. NOOOOOOO. “I’ve literally brought my wage to crunch this f#cker and look at him” was my only reaction. We sign in, drop the gear off at the stalls, go straight to the wash bay and clean up and stay in the stalls. As each 10-15 minutes goes by he is relaxing. THANK F#CK FOR THAT. It’s 30 minutes to go, time to hand over the silks and collect the saddle from the jockey. Hmmmm, detour by the bookies first. Definitely . The bookies have just opened the bags, $2.60. BANG!!! And there is literally my wage, plus a bit of savings, whacked on the nose. I continue onto the jockey room, catch up with Nash Rawiller, do the swap and go saddle up.
We hit the mounting yard (relaxed and back to normal phew), Nash jumps on, do a few laps having a chat and then out the gate onto the track. By now I’ve unclipped the lead and just holding the reigns. Upon release at the gate Nash looks down and says, quote “Enjoy the show mate”. Before they jump I just have a quick look at the price to see what he is a few minutes before they jump. $1.60, you little beauty. Now you just have to win.
They all load without drama. The starters ready. PING, and we’re off. It’s a 1100 metre maiden and he’s drawn wide, but jumps good. Nash slams the brakes on almost immediately. On settling, I’m watching my wage sit 6-7 wide and 6-7 off them falling too f#cking sleep. Oh f#ck, the adrenaline starts already kicking in. What am I going to eat this week was my thoughts at the 800. They have hit the top of the straight and we are still in the same position and I’m starting to shake now.
Well Nash has fair dinkum given him an inch of reign, tops, and he has reeled them in within 100 metres, hits the front by 3 with 100 to go before winning by 1 1/2 lengths, HARD HELD. F#CKING BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. The best maiden win my wallet has ever enjoyed. They’ve come back to scale and all I got from Nash was a smirk and a wink. “Good man and thank you” was all I had to say. We’ve returned to the stalls, gave the winner his much rewarded drink and we’re off for a hose down and a urine sample (This is pre all pre race swabs. Only usually winners were swabbed back then). All clear to leave the track we load up and head home. F@ck the head hurt the next day at 3am. On arrival to work at 4am the next morning, who is there greeting me. The jockey from the jump out. He looked at me and just said, quote “I told ya he was a moral”.
Added note. Was That You went on to win his next 3 starts before he went amiss again with his knees. Just before that injury, he was installed the Goodwood Handicap favourite in early markets. After that injury he was never the same horse, and unfortunately we never really saw how good he really was. Next week I will tell you the story that means the most to me personally, strapping a winner on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington. WOOOOOOOW, what a f#cking ride that day was .