THE members of a six-strong Thangool syndicate are still riding high after their horse, Belflyer, won the inaugural $1.3 million The Kosciuszko at Randwick.
The seven-year-old gelding, who started at odds of 70-1, stormed home on a heavy track to win by half a length from Suncraze and claim the $685,000 first prize on Saturday.
The win takes his gross earnings to almost $970,000 after he was bought as a tried horse from a bloodstock agent in Melbourne in April 2016 for just $15,000.
The lucky owners are Rodney Rideout and his partner Gail Anderson, Ian and Janet Hogan and Troy and Sheree Hogan.
Rideout is still coming to terms with the win.
“You probably don’t think that something like this is ever going to happen but it has,” he said. “I’ve been in racing for 50 years and I’ve never won anything like this.
“It was an amazing run, he really put a lot into it.
“He was racing in the latter half of the field but he made his run just before the turn. On turning, jockey Adam Hyeronimus balanced him and when he went for him the horse responded. You could see he was going to win, he really gets going when he starts.
“He’s got a very big following in Grafton and they reckon some of the TAB outlets never had enough money to pay out on Saturday.”
Rideout did not make the trip to Sydney.
He was preparing to watch the race on TV when a storm rolled through, knocking out power to his home about 45 minutes before the 1.50pm start.
Thankfully, he had a generator on hand which he kicked into gear, allowing him to witness the magical moment.
“I’m not one that gets over-excited but it certainly made my heart pump a bit quicker,” he said.
Rideout celebrated the win with a beer with his neighbour but intends to head to Grafton in several weeks’ time to celebrate in style with trainer John Shelton.
Belflyer has some impeccable breeding. He is by Bel Esprit, the sire of Black Caviar, and his mother is a half sister to Better Loosen Up.
His half-brother Flying Artie placed in both the Blue Diamond and the Golden Slipper and was recently sold as a stallion for $14 million.
Rideout said when they realised Belflyer’s potential, his son and then trainer Damien set him for a race in Ipswich which he won convincingly first up.
The syndicate decided to leave him in Brisbane under trainer Neville Petersen.
Belflyer won three races there before they moved him to Grafton with Shelton in a bid to target the Country Cups in NSW which boast much healthier prize money than those in Queensland.
Rideout said when The Kosciuszko was announced, Shelton was adamant Belflyer was up to it – if they could get him into the race.
In a unique concept, 200,000 tickets were sold at $5 each, from which 12 winning tickets were drawn.
Each winning ticket holder then had an entry in the race and could select a NSW country-trained horse to race in their entry, subject to agreeing with the horse’s owners as to how they would share the prize money for the race.
Rideout said with just two slots remaining, he and his fellow owners were thinking they might have missed their chance.
However, they received a phone call from slot holder Thad King who was keen to start Belflyer. In exchange, he was to receive a share of the prize money and a future 10 per cent share in the horse.
“We got him in, he delivered the goods and it’s all history now,” Rideout said.
“We’ll just let the dust settle and take him back to Sydney for a race.
“He’s really excelled. I wouldn’t care if he didn’t win another race for what he’s done – but I think he will.
“That win takes his gross earnings to close to $970,000. I’d like to see him get to the $1 million just for the sake of that magic figure now he’s that close to it.”