We nearly lost champion Might And Power during 2004.
2004 had the usual highs and lows in the racing industry. As the highs outpointed the lows, it’s fair to say it was another successful year.
To me, the low was that the greatest jockey I’ve ever seen – Leonard Ross (call me Mick) Dittman retired, but was not afforded a tribute in Brisbane to thank him on behalf of all Australian punters for his wonderful achievements in his chosen profession.
Born at Rockhampton – the youngest of 6 children – and reared on his parent’s dairy farm, from the day he rode a double on his first day as a jockey – at Murwillumbah – he was always going to be a star.
A highlight of Mick Dittman’s career bought sadness to a million lovers of racing, when he brought Gurner’s Lane along the fence to nail champion Kingston Town near the post in the 1982 Melbourne Cup.
At Eagle Farm on 1-11- 1977, Dittman rode 6 of the 7 winners on the card. His other mount Strong James, the 7-2 on favourite, ran 2nd beaten a head.
He remains, to this day, one of only four jockeys who have ridden six winners in a day on a metropolitan racecourse in the history of Australian racing. Jim Cassidy rode 6 at Rosehill 12/12/1987, Matthew Cahill rode 6 at Canberra on 21-3-1999 and Frank Treen won 6 at Ascot in Perth on 25-11-1967.
Dittman rode 5 winners at a metropolitan track another four times – all at Doomben between 1974 and 1980. Once again, in the history of Australian racing only Darren Beadman has achieved the same feat (at Rosehill, Randwick and twice at Canterbury) between 1990 and 2003. George Moore rode 5 winners five times (three times at Randwick as well as Canterbury and Rosehill) to eclipse both Dittman and Beadman in terms of the number of times the feat was achieved.
Nicknamed “The Enforcer,” Dittman was rarely beaten in a close finish.
He remains etched in my mind as the only jockey I have ever seen who could truly “lift” a horse over the line. I wish he was riding a few I’ve backed lately that got beaten in a photo! That he was not given racetrack send off’s in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, whereby simple people, like me, could stand and clap a true racing champion represents a pathetic indictment on the racing power brokers of this country.
On the subject of racing power brokers of this country, the “Victorian branch” were responsible for the most stupid statement I’ve ever heard in racing, when after the 2004 Melbourne Cup they threatened to refuse the nomination of English horses in the 2005 Melbourne Cup if Betfair was allowed into Australia. What innovative thinking! It’s so childish it defies logic – so I don’t need to comment further. The “Victorian branch” did start weighing horses as suggested here prior to that happening – so that’s a positive. Now we just need to keep running with the baton on that one. Someone said it will give punters “too much information.” How the hell when you are educating children or adults through life, patients about to undergo cancer surgery, a mountain climber about to tackle Mt. Everest or a punter studying a Form Guide, can you give them too much information? Just give us the information – we are old enough to use it and like penetrometers, the ones that don’t want it will discard that info – that’s their right.
I personally thought it was great that Might And Power is still with us after emergency surgery in Brisbane during the second half of 2004. I found it repugnant that a written contract would have been originally needed so as to outline the future of Might And Power upon retirement. Alan Denham, son of the horses trainer Jack Denham swears he was offered the horse so he “could look after him in retirement,” by owner Nick Moriatis. You would wonder how in the path of human life – given that Jack Denham trained the great champion equine athlete to win A$5,226,586, that the two parties now don’t speak. Either Alan Denham is a liar or Nick Moriatis didn’t keep his word! You decide who did what – but one thing is for sure, it was pathetic to think that if the horse had died on the operating table in Brisbane, the argument would have been resolved once and for all.
On the subject of racehorses, 2004 saw a 2YO called Dance Hero do what no other 2YO in history has done. He won the January Magic Millions – and then did what everyone said was impossible – he won the Sydney Triple Crown of the Golden Slipper, Sires Produce and Champagne Stakes. He was never given the recognition he deserved – he may have been the greatest 2YO Australia has ever seen. You may scoff at that statement, but the great Vain couldn’t even win the Triple Crown – let alone contest a Magic Millions 3 months earlier.
If you think Dance Hero beat a shocking small field in the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown – yes, it’s true he did only beat 3 other rivals. But never forget he did all the donkey work up front – and he covered the 1600 in 1.34.75. Although the Champagne Stakes has been run at 1600 since 1972 only one other horse, Vivarchi, (1.35.2) has broken 1.36.0. That means winners like Luskin Star, Red Anchor, Bounding Away, Sky Chase, Triscay, Tierce, Burst, Intergaze, Assertive Lad and crew would have been 10 lengths astern! Oh and remember when he only beat three opponents in the Champagne Stakes – the one that ran 3rd and couldn’t keep up, finishing 2.5 lengths off the winner was called Savabeel. Just six months later, Savabeel would win one of the great Group 1 weight – for – age races of the world stage – the Cox Plate!
Sadly, Dance Hero was gelded before his racing career commenced. Had he been an entire, he may not have been pushed to those limits. He returned to the racetrack, but was barely competitive, in what was little short of a tragedy. Nevertheless, his wonderful achievements of 2004 shall remain very special and will probably never be equalled in our – or our children or grandchildren’s lifetime.
The most outstanding win of the year, I accredited to Lonhro for his great effort in the Australian Cup. When you watch racehorses all your life, there are certain things they can do – and certain things they can’t. What he did that day was “impossible” in equine terms. Even his harshest critics – like me – had to acknowledge that was one of the greatest wins we well see in our lifetime, particularly when it was at Group 1 level.
The greatest horse we got to see in 2004 comes to us thanks to modern technology, via satellites, when we could watch the champion Hong Kong sprinter Silent Witness take his record to 13 wins from 13 starts. He treated the best sprinters from around the world with utter contempt. He was the most outstanding equine sprinting athlete worldwide during 2004. “They” say he’s still got to do it overseas yet. “They” ought to get a life – it wouldn’t matter whether you ran him at Flemington, Longchamps, Epsom or Churchill Downs he’d be a champion. Then again, some people would see that bloke Ian Thorpe and conclude he’d only win gold medals in Australian swimming pools! There is a difference between hard markers and rampant stupidity!
In harness racing, we saw pacer Sokyola dominate from the front with wins in the Miracle Mile and Victoria Cup. He had been beaten a nose and a head by Jofess and The Falcon Strike in the Inter Dominion at Gloucester Park in Perth earlier in the year. By winning the 2004 Miracle Mile, Sokyola joined other greats Westburn Grant, Chokin and Holmes D G as winners of consecutive Miracle Mile’s since the race was first run in 1967.
The Falcon Strike and driver Gary Hill had a vintage year also. With wins in the Fremantle Cup, West Australian Pacing Cup and Australian Pacing Championship, The Falcon Strike was beaten a nose in the Inter Dominion.
In the trotters ranks, the world acclaimed champion trotter Lyell Creek returned to Moonee Valley where he’d dominated in the 2000 Trotters Inter Dominion. Having beaten the best in the world at the Meadowlands in America, Lyell Creek returned to contest the $100,000 Australian Grand Prix at Moonee Valley over 2570 metres. Having never been beaten in nine starts there, the now 11YO gelding and driver Anthony Butt would taste defeat by a nose behind Gold N Gold. He just needed one more stride – but that’s racing. He had no more to prove anyway.
In greyhound racing, we saw a “giveaway” bitch produce a litter of pups which was to include a dog called Tropical One. At Cairns, in North Queensland, the dog won 24 races in a row and make his trainer Stan Montague a household name around the country. The cynics said “it’s only Cairns”. That’s okay, I’ll make a big fuss about it the next time it happens anywhere in Australia. Tropical One broke Mt. Isa dog
Sophocles record of 21 wins straight. Using historical data on the subject, I should have to get ready about 2017 to re-write Tropical One’s feat!
We saw the greatest prizemoney earning female greyhound ever – anywhere in the world – Bogie Leigh – retire after running 2nd in the Group 1 Brisbane Cup at Albion Park. Grandchester trainer Tony Brett guided the career of the bitch and she won $489,110 in her sparkling career which yielded 41 wins from 68 starts. She was only once unplaced at Group 1 level in ten appearances. She will be now mated to Brett Lee.
Can I give you a couple of horses to follow through 2005? Clients have a couple, but I’ll put a couple here.
I think two outstanding horses will stand up in 2005. The first one I know in my heart of hearts is an outstanding racehorse. I think he’ll justify that in 2005 – Dante’s Paradiso. This horse has been an enigma, but the other day – in track record time – his second to Ikes Dream in the Group 2 Villiers was the effort of a rising star. Ordinary horses don’t do what that horse did in that race. You know, set for it, that horse could win a Stradbroke, an Epsom or is so stoutly bred he could win a Caulfield Cup or anything his astute trainer sets him for. It is dependant on any injuries being totally healed, but his run the other day was one of the runs of 2004. He was only having start number eight. He only has to stay sound to star in 2005.
The other horse to follow is Lotteria. All that’s got to happen is her owners like Gerry Harvey need to leave her to Gai Waterhouse. They originally employed her to do a job – then told her what to do! A Group 1 winner by 7 lengths already, she’s ready to star in 2005. Barring injury, I expect her to become one of the great post World War 2 females of Australia.
On the subject of Gerry, be careful jumping in with Gerry when he syndicates yearlings! He had no problem syndicating his $800,000 Magic Millions 2004 purchase which now races as Longhorn. After being easily beaten last Sunday by panels of fencing, you could cross a few of those zero’s off at the end of it’s price! It’s a full brother to Catbird. Obviously Gerry doesn’t read this site or he’d realize Catbird is no revelation as a sire! Catbird currently achieves 40% winners – to – runners. He has not thrown a Group 1, Group 2 or Group 3 winner from nearly 60 starters. I’ve been bagging Catbird since the day he went to stud – while all the others are saying what a great sire he’d be – or is! 2004 in the “sire’s predictions department” didn’t let me down – but I knew it wouldn’t. The failures like the Catbird’s and Octagonal’s of this world, stand out to me just like the need to follow Dante’s Paradiso and Lotteria.
Thanks for taking the time to visit during 2004 and you are invited to keep reading throughout 2005 – I’ll tell you the facts when most of the others pander to the whims of all their “mates,” whose advertising money they need to exist!
What they all need to learn is you can’t buy “integrity” – they don’t sell it.