Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Goodbye Super

How ironic is this? In my last posting, I wrote about Shaftesbury Avenue, the name of one of my all-time favourite horses. I was very lucky in that I first went to Australia during an era of outstanding horses. Mind you, we all say that about the horses who ushered us into a love of a particular area of the sport. Anyway, I was lucky enough in one brief period to see Better Loosen Up, Vo Rogue, Let's Elope and two particular rivals, Shaftesbury Avenue and Super Impose. Of those five horses, Shaftesbury Avenue and Super were particular rivals, and generally Super would shine under handicap conditions as weight didn't seem to worry him and the hectic tempo of a big field suited his style, while Shaftesbury Avenue would thrive under weight-for-age conditions because of his huge talent. Anyway, only days after taking my little trip down memory lane courtesy of Shaftesbury Avenue mark two winning a race in the UK, I read today of Super Impose's death. And I have to confess that I've shed a few tears. I've really surprised myself by how moved I've been at the news of his passing, and at the memories of this wonderful horse which it has prompted. Not that I need news of him to remember him, because I sleep under a large mounted and framed photograph, which Richard Sims kindly gave me many years ago, of Super and Darren Beadman cantering down to the start at Randwick before a Ranvet Stakes. It's number 692 in a limited edition of 850, and it is signed by the photographer and by Lee Freedman. It is impressive, even if not quite as awesome as the huge framed montage of photos of several of Super's best wins which we saw in Freedman's office at his property at Rye last November. We actually admired it in the company of Super's former strapper Scotty McGhie, which was rather nice. (Scotty showed us around the property because Lee seems to lie low when his less important clients, eg Richard, appear - compare and contrast with the personal welcome we received from the arguably equally talented Anne Taylor at Benalla, who showed us her photos of several horses, all called either Something Mooncoin or Delatite Something herself - plus a photo of a herd of sheep on the Dingle peninsula, surprisingly enough).

Anyway, I'm posting this blog on a beautiful warm and sunny spring afternoon for no reason other than to offer a eulogy to Super. A wonderful horse. I've already offered one eulogy to him by writing a grey panel for tomorrow's thoroughbredinternet entitled Super Star, which is far too long but which I hope won't be cut. I never saw Super win a race in the flesh, but the race I most remember is his second Doncaster Handicap, which I watched in a bar at Kyneton on Easter Saturday 1991. Even at Kyneton, hundreds of miles from Randwick and in a different state, the excitement at Super's success was huge. I have in the house a video of his win, as an eight-year-old on his penultimate (ie 73rd) start in the 1992 Cox Plate, perhaps the most exciting race ever, which I might dust down and watch again tonight. I have the video 'Super, Better, Best' but somehow watching the original live version of that great race might be better. The remainder of my Super memorabilia includes a photograph in an old Racetrack magazine which Greg Hall signed for me when he was in Newmarket in 2000 of him and Super returning to scale that day, and various holiday snaps of Richard Sims, Jimmy Graham and I patting Super in 1993, 51 weeks after his final race (his joints were still swollen even after nearly a year out of training) in the field near Echuca where he spent the first part of his retirement. In the great scheme of things these scraps of paper are of no significance at all, but to me they are very precious mementoes of a very special horse.

I'll leave you with the words which Les Carlyon wrote in the Melbourne Age of 22nd February 1993 following Super's retirement - he'd been spelled following his unplaced run in 1992 Melbourne Cup and then brought back into training, but Freedman decided not to run him once he'd been in work for a few weeks because it was apparent that his joints couldn't stand any more strain. I remember seeing footage from the tv news in Melbourne of him being loaded onto the float to head off to his new home, and he was terribly sore even at the walk, so it shows just how far Super's great courage had taken him before enough had to be enough. Anyway, this was the end to the article (which was actually prompted by three almost simultaneous retirements, the others being Better Loosen Up and Let's Elope):-

"So now racing stands poorer. But remember this: at this moment around Australia, several hundred trainers are throwing rugs over horses they think will become the next Super Impose. The game lives on such dreams. The good news is that, eventually, one of these trainers will be right. Only then can the pageant move on". Leaving aside that I'm not sure that the hundreds of trainers (myself included) who dream of one of their charges becoming the next Super Impose actually 'think' that that will happen, you remember that Super was just an ordinary plain chestnut gelding who won two (at Seymour and Benalla) of his first sixteen starts, and then you think that maybe, just maybe ...

1 comment:

Stato-man said...

I dread to think how uncomfortable poor old Super lived out his retirement with those legs.
The last horse who absorebed that much pain and still raced seemeingly forever at Group 1 level was Manikato.