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BLOG: Sometimes fairy tales do come true!

The winning team! Photo: Sally Kirkwood

The winning team!

 

Words and photos by Sally Kirkwood

Sometimes fairy tales do come true, however most don't just magically happen on their own. They require dedication, determination, hard work and a lot of fun along the way. ?Sure there are a lot of mornings we struggle to get out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning; there are times when you wonder what in the hell are we doing! There are days when we drive home from the races feeling totally gutted as our primed race horses just ran like a pack of donkeys up the wrong garden path, which then makes you question what went wrong and how to fix it! I think it is on these days that sayings like "You can't make a silk purse from a pig’s ear" get thrown around.

But it is all those hard times that make you REALLY appreciate the good ones!!!

I cannot tell you the emotions and the feelings that swept through us as we saw Cracow come thundering down the straight to win his third Charters Towers Amateur Cup in a row.

Cracow arrived at our stables in May 2015 and he has been the stable favourite ever since. Well after Furstinus (Bloomfield Furstinus, Sally’s dressage horse) that is! Cracow is the old boy who is the king pin of the others. He is very opinionated and quick to let you know when he doesn't agree with you!! Not in a nasty way, but in his little stubborn ways. For instance when he gets worked he has his little routine and don't think that you can change that!

Firstly, he always gets worked first whether it is at the track or at home. When I ride him here, he likes to walk until he is ready to work. He always lets me know when walk time is up and I had better be ready to trot! Some days he would like to skip trotting completely and just canter, we have "discussions" on those days. He likes to weave while he waits at the track and you have to come to terms with that and not think that you will stop him. It is just his thing! Once he has been worked he likes to be iced down and then he stands there happily. He only likes certain horses next to him in his stable or when they go in their play paddocks, and if you are late putting him out or even when it is time to put him to bed, he is there with his head over the fence looking at you as if to say "Hurry up, what could be more important than me?”'

 

Robert and Cracow. Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Robert and Cracow.

 

At the start of the year we weren't sure if the old boy would be back for this year’s meeting as he is now eight. However we knew that he would let us know how he was feeling and leave it up to him. Well, I can tell you he has been feeling better than ever! ?He feels amazing in his work, then he feels that good he runs, bucks and just goes to town in his play paddock of an afternoon. So we had a little dream, could he win the cup three years in a row?

Robert and I are very lucky to have the help and support of some wonderful people around us. Jeffrey Felix has been riding work at the track for us. He finishes riding in Townsville then drives up to Charters Towers to ride our team. Jeffrey has made that many comebacks from injuries it isn't funny and you would think after already riding in Townsville and then a long drive to us, you would be cranky?!

He is always happy, cheery, cracks some funnies and is such an important part of our team. It is a pleasure to watch him ride work, as in my opinion he is so balanced and doesn't interfere with them. He is kind to them even when they can be a little tricky. He is interested in how they work at home for me and then each morning we award one of them Race Horse of the Day! Robert is quite worried about the day Jeffrey retires. Plus on the days we have a winner, we get to grope the shit out of him! I think he likes it!
To my fabulous sponsor Justin Diamond from Rose-Hip Vital. THANK YOU!


Cracow and Rosehip Vital - Thanks Justin Diamond! Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Cracow and Rosehip Vital - Thanks Justin Diamond!

 

The big secret of training horses is a simple one. It is to keep them happy! Cracow is feeling better than ever and Robert and I have no doubt that RHV plays such a major role in this. Cracow not only feels better than ever but he looks a million bucks as well.?If you have a racehorse who is pain free, working well and feeling well then hopefully he will go well. Then not only is the horse happy but the trainer will be too! I have been sending Justin little videos and photos of the horse and we even spoke about getting him up for the race meeting. If you haven't tried RHV please get in touch with Justin. He is more than happy to help and such a pleasure to deal with.

Then we have Cracow's owners. Cracow has a fan club. No one is more proud of him then Mary and Allan Paine. They have hardly missed a meeting and have even driven from a function in Toowoomba to Townsville just to see him race. If they can't make it to the meeting, they always make sure they can see it on a TV. It is very cute how many people meet me at a clinic out west and they say, "Oh you are the people that train Mrs Paine's cup horse". Not, "Oh you are the girl with the fancy pants warmblood." Then they all tell me that they backed him as Mrs Paine had told them how well he was going. It is just so VERY cute!

 

Winner are grinners! Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Winner are grinners!

 

Then we have Shaun Flanagan and Trish Corfield. Shaun is my brother from another mother. We have times when we fight and say some nasty things to each other! I think it is because we are both so passionate about the horses. That's not a bad thin. We always build a bridge and move on. Sometimes that bridge is a bloody big one! But without a doubt Shaun and Trish win the most passionate, hands-on owners award. He just isn't allowed to mix feeds EVER again! He and Robert have a bromance and without a doubt Robert would win Shaun's favourite trainer award! These two are there through the bad times and the good. They are only a phone call away in our times of need and we are very lucky to have them as our friends. Together we ride the roller coaster of owning racehorses and Shaun and I are often the first to scream, cheer, cry and then grope Jeffrey after a win!

 

Sally Kirkwood, Jeffrey Felix (jockey) and Cracow. Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Sally Kirkwood, Jeffrey Felix (jockey) and Cracow.

 

I also have to thank Physio Tom from Equi-Ice. Poor Tom has been so helpful to me. I have rung him about horses that I think need a little help and this poor guy has been so generous with his time. I am such a big believer in icing horses and Physio Tom is the man for this! If you haven't seen the Equi-Ice packs you really need to check them out! They recover so well on these hot days and the horses all stand there and relax as they cool down and recover after work.

As you can see there is a lot that goes into training a racehorse. There are a lot of people relying on us to make sure these horses are fit and at their best.

After the first few races on Saturday it was obvious this meeting wasn't going to plan for our team. All of our horses were feeling a million bucks and working well. However they couldn't handle the heavy wet track and we were very worried as to how Cracow would like the heavy going. As let’s face it, it doesn't bloody rain much up here! So we really didn't know. We knew that our horses that had inside barriers couldn't get out of the heavy going and it took its toll on them. The mood up in the tie up stalls was a little tense and everyone seemed to be on edge. It didn't help that we were all cold and wet. We had done all of this work but here we were at the mercy of a wet track!

I had a little tear as I legged Jeffrey up on Cracow and I think he said, "Man what are we doing!” Robert said,"Put the other runs behind us, as this is the race. Look after him and no matter what we will still love him in the morning.”

Well run that old boy did! He ran the race of his life and Jeffrey rode him to perfection. As he appeared down the straight we all just lost it. The entire group screamed, jumped, cheered and as he crossed the finish line four and a half lengths in front, the tears flowed! Turns out I am not a pretty crier! We were just so overwhelmed that all the hard work and the love of a horse had made a fairy tale come true. Sure it isn't the Melbourne Cup, but it is our local cup! Three years in a row!

 

Quiet time at the track. Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Quiet time at the track.

 

This year it was the Mrs Eve Mann Memorial. Mrs Mann was such a beautiful lady who used to be our neighbour when we still owned Lucky Break. Eve was very passionate about her horses and racing was in her blood. This just made the cup a little more special to Robert and I.

So we groped the jockey! We partied like rock stars! HOT rock stars in Hitchley & Harrow mind you! But we didn't recover like rock stars. Turns out we are getting old.?It was very special to celebrate with our family and friends.

 

Partying like rock stars! Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Partying like rock stars!

 

As for old Cracow, he ate all of his dinner and munched on his hay. He had is head out of the stables waiting for me to put him out in his play paddock as I was late in the morning and no he didn't care if I had a headache and was dragging my ass! Lucky for me our super groom Miss Molly Lyttle was here to help! Thank you for everything Molly! We do love you!

Most of all, this win is a testament to my husband Robert. Racing is a big part of the Kirkwood family. In his younger days, Robert was a amateur jockey, his father Tom was the trainer and the entire family was brought up racing. Both Maree Marsterson and Neville were part of the team and together they had a lot of success. It is beautiful that as the younger Kirkwoods grow up, they are showing an interest in racing and the most beautiful part is after every win it is his parents and family who are there to congratulate him. Tom still calls Robert every day to check how the team is going and he and Irene hardly miss a race meeting. Robert's biggest fan in the world was always Neville. Robert loved Neville to the moon and back. There isn't a day that goes by where we don't think about him. We were so lucky to have Stacey Kirkwood and her beautiful children there. As without a doubt the proudest person of Robert's achievements would be Neville. Family is the most important thing in the world to Robert and to have family support is the icing on the cake.

Robert is a talented horseman, hard worker and has such a kind nature. He deserves this win more than anyone. Not only because of all the hard work. But because he really does appreciate what it means to win the Cup three years in a row with a horse that he really does love. He is a once in a lifetime horse and I couldn't be prouder of the both of them!

And that my friends, is why we love racing!!!
 

Cracow relaxing the day after his third Charters Towers Cup win. Photo: Sally Kirkwood

Cracow relaxing the day after his third Charters Towers Cup win.
 

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Issue 38

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