(By John Jenkins)
The owners of The Puketapu Lad, who broke through for a maiden win at Otaki on Thursday of last week, are so devoted to their horse that they have even invited him in for a drink at their local pub.
Sean O’Connor, who manages the See You At The Puke Trap Syndicate that races the four-year-old Roc de Cambes gelding, says that even though the horse is only a one-race winner he is already a legend in the country area of Puketapu, north-west of Napier.
“It was when he was in his first preparation, at the end of last year, that we arranged to have him come into the bar of the Puketapu,” O’Connor said this week.
“It was a big occasion and I have to thank Mary Danielson, the proprietor of the Puketapu Hotel, for allowing it to happen. But she has got a share in the horse anyway so that helped.”
Asked whether The Puketapu Lad had a drink while he was up at the bar, O’Connor replied: “We gave him a beer. He had a sniff of a jug but probably preferred something else.”
The Puketapu Lad, who is prepared by the Hastings partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen, was having his seventh start when he broke through for his first win over 1600m at Otaki. The horse was slow away and a distant equal last for the first 400m of the race before jockey Sam O’Malley managed to pinch runs down on the inside and improve to midfield approaching the home turn.
O’Malley stayed hard up against the inside rail swinging round the home bend, so that he never had to go around a horse, and The Puketapu Lad hit the front early in the home straight to put a break on his rivals.
Rex Royale put him under pressure inside the last 100 metres but The Puketapu Lad managed to hold him out by half a head on the line.
It was the horse’s first glimpse of form, with his best placing in six previous starts being a fifth over 1600m at Hastings on New Year’s Day.
O’Connor said there are 13 members in the See You At The Puke Trap Syndicate and most of them are first time owners. They include a couple from Palmerston North, who were on course at Otaki to celebrate the win, and one member who lives in Papua New Guinea.
“I couldn’t get there myself because it was a mid-week race meeting and I had to work,” O’Connor said.
“Most of us in the horse are from around the Puketapu area and we meet and drink at the Puketapu Hotel.”
O’Connor and his wife Angela and two other syndicate members, Garry and Heather Collins, bred The Puketapu Lad out of the Danske mare Boxer Fluffies.
Boxer Fluffies was the winner of four races and finished second behind subsequent Group 1 winner Baldessarini over 1300m at Awapuni in December 2004.
“Angela and I and Garry and Heather are the Mow The Lawn Syndicate and we own the mare Boxer Fluffies,” Sean O’Connor said.
“We are still breeding from her and Guy and Grant have got a two-year-old full-brother to The Puketapu Lad in work now.
“We’ve also got a weanling full-brother coming on but the mare missed getting in foal this year.”
The Puketapu Lad has spent most of this preparation working over the hills on the Dannevirke property operated by Grant Cullen and his partner Nikki Lourie and that has obviously built up the horse’s stamina.
“He really fought on well when he won the other day and the heavy-10 track obviously helped him,” co-trainer Grant Cullen said.
“He might now go back to Awapuni on May 30 for a Rating 65 race over 1550 metres or else to Wanganui on June 1 for a Rating 65 over 2040 metres.
“It all depends on the tracks and he’ll go wherever it is the heaviest.”