10 things I learnt at from a days racing at Pakenham

Dec 7, 2021

By Terry Kennedy

There was a buzz in the covid check in queue at Pakenham on Saturday 4th December, where VIC Husslers were pouring in to see their Captain take it up a notch against serious competition in his bid towards the Melbourne Cup of 2022. 

I couldn’t tell if it was the fact we were all out and ready for a fabulous day of racing, friends, food and a little bet or if I was amongst the die-hard racing fans desperate to get back to the track. It didn’t matter though, we were all there for an experience and I was lucky enough to soak in some racing pearls of wisdom straight from the Cumani stables.This is what I learnt.

1. It’s all about the trajectory

This is how the professionals do it. You want to find the horse that is on the up, so a horse at the beginning of his journey through the ratings. A horse that is moving from 64 to a 100 rating, not one that’s already at the 100 rating. I might not be able to do that but the trainers can certainly tell so listen closely to those owner reports.

2. There’s heart and then there’s heart

Team Captain ran third in the Pakenham Cup. He ran three wide for a lot of the trip and ate up the ground in the last couple of hundred. After he pulled up his heart rate was checked and it was in the 90 range. This was after a 2500m race where he was seriously tested! Team Captain looks like a horse that could just keep going with that measurement. Anyone say Melbourne Cup?

3. We’re still doing everything we can not to be English

Training methods vary around the world, and one that the English just don’t understand is why Australian trainers allow their horses to have full let downs in their lengthy spells. It could be the significant number of sprint type races in Australia but stayers in England can be in work for well over a year. Team Captain is going on an active short spell after the Pakenham Cup. He will have a fortnight just totally relaxing in a paddock and then a week of light but consistent exercise at the beach and on trails. He will keep a baseline fitness that will allow him to return to training leaps and bounds ahead of a horse that has a lengthy spell. This is the English way.

4. Learn every race

It’s not always about winning, of course a win is amazing and to be fair you need to give the horse the confidence and feeling of winning. If you have won and the horse is confident then you might have other reasons for choosing a race. Team Captain could have possibly romped in the Sandown Cup in a field that was not particularly strong but would that give the trainer Cumani an understanding if he could match it with a stronger field over a longer distance? The Pakenham Cup taught Cumani that after being 3 wide the trip, yet so strong on the line and so clean winded post race, he is a genuine 3200m prospect. The Pakenham Cup was a $300k race to boot

5. Learn the lingo just don’t always believe it

“He was three wide for that whole trip”, it is often the reason why horses tire and can’t find their turn of foot in the home straight. Team Captain was three wide for most of the Pakenham Cup and on the bend everyone thought he was finished. But Team Captain had other ideas. He had sat three wide for most of the trip but he had enough in the tank to claw back more horses than anyone thought possible to finish third. Yes he was three wide but he can take it. So learn the lingo but more importantly know the horse.

6. Any track can be your Ascot

For those who might say “who cares it was only Pakenham”, tell that to the owners who had horses running that day. Every race is a thrill and something to cherish. Just getting to the track can be an achievement let alone a Listed Cup. And judging by the roars from the crowd and the incessant smiling all day, Pakenham was a great day of racing.

7. Put a girl who loves horses on 

Jamie Kah was a smiling bubble of delight at the Pakenham Cup. She won the Cup and had rides all day. The trainers were behind her return and you can understand why. She isn’t pushy or aggressive, or just quiet, she is whatever the horse needs in that race.

8. It’s a small world

The Racing League has an incredible selection of trainers in each team. The Pakenham Cup was won by trainer of Lethal Thoughts (VIC Husslers 2YO) Ciaron Maher & Dave Eustace and Mini’s Award trainers Ben & JD Hayes have Bellinger (VIC Husslers 4YO). It was a thrill to be in the Mounting Yard and have them acknowledge their fellow Husslers owners.

9. Horses can have a sweet tooth

So Team Captain is my type of horse. He likes a bit of molasses with his oats and I’m a bit partial to some honey on my weetbix. Sweet tooths unite!

10. People love people who are passionate

At the end of the day every VIC Husslers owner who went to Pakenham could not stop smiling. They cheered, they cried (there was a wedding proposal in the Mounting Yard!), they meet Team Captain and heard from trainer Matt Cumani and assistant Nik, they knew John the strapper was keeping Captain happy and they loved every minute of it. Passionate people make the world exciting.

Racing can seem like a sport that is foreign but after a single day at the races I can honestly say it is a sport that welcomes everyone to live a little of that thrill that is cheering on a horse to victory. Owning that horse only magnifies the thrill and the VIC Husslers are going places, specifically they are targeting the Melbourne Cup in 2022. A racing dream with passionate people for just $200, it’s a no brainer. And now, after a single day at the track, I know 10 more things about racing. I’m on board, are you?