Looking over the boundary fence at the moment is O'Leary brother's Who Shot theBarman, with all the bearing and circumspection of a character who's been somewhere/done something, coming up to the fence to check out having his photo taken.
All with some justification, as he's recently returned and spelling, after a trip to Randwick chasing the Sydney Cup. Not to be this trip, but his dozen or so lifetime starts to date having yielded the G1 Avondale and Auckland Cups. Plenty of time for more, he's only four.
Along with my father's Ruato win in the Auckland Cup in 1961, some mileage has been got out of a second one coming to this little part of the Whangaehu valley, but in fact there's a third slightly tenuous connection in the winning of that race by Neil Connor's Bodie in 2003, ridden by ace Noel Harris.
Neil moved from the valley some years ago, but the Connors family name is synonomous with racing in these parts, as our generation stem from a quadratic of racing fathers, Stan and Bill Connors, Humphrey O'Leary, and my father Don.
There's a bit of a mention in Noel Harris' book, "Harry, The Ride of My Life", which I've just finished.
For anyone involved in racing over a number of years, its a sometimes hilarious walk down memory lane, racing folk being the comedians they are.
But there's also a good examination of the life of dedicated racing people, and in Noel's case the demands on a jockey to keep peace with family, trainer, and owner connections, not to mention making correct weight and all the other self-management that comes with the game.
He laments the loss from the scene of the farmer/owner with 2 or 3 horses in work, loyal supporters of their chosen trainer and jockey.
For some reason the economics of sheep and beef farming have switched over the years to being a benefit for the rest of NZ rather than one for us owners of farms, and small communities and their trainers have suffered decline as a result, as Noel refers, Woodville, Marton, Waverley, Feilding, Levin, Otaki.
Sigh...., those were the days!
Dad and I mostly had 2-3 in work at one time with Don Grubb at Feilding, Malcolm Smith also trained there.
The track's gone now, and I can hardly afford one in work.