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Why I loved every minute of Sincero’s win…

June 12, 2011

The win of Sincero in yesterday’s Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) was not entirely unexpected. Yes, he had been disappointing the week before, and he had his fair share of critics – jockey Glen Boss jumped off, while some in the press (the owners referred to one Sydney columnist specifically) were incredibly negative. Still, the addition of blinkers and a middle draw gave punters the confidence to support the maligned three year old.

I didn’t back Sincero, I was on both Woorim and Love Conquers All. I didn’t write him off, but I wasn’t sure what to make of his last run.

I’ve been outspoken in my belief that this crop of three year olds is fairly weak, with a few notable exceptions. There is no doubt that the Stephen Farley-trained galloper is one of these exceptions. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in time, this boy proves to be the best of the lot of them – and he cost only $8000! Talk about a great leveller.

There is commentary already suggesting that it was a weak Stradbroke. I disagree. You had former Stradbroke winners like Sniper’s Bullet and Black Piranha, Group 1 winners like All Silent and Alverta, a multiple Group 1 placegetter in Love Conquers All. There were progressive types like Woorim, Zero Rock and Thankgodyou’rehere – and you had the three year olds.

I am hoping that Sincero’s win yesterday was only a precursor for what is to come in the future. His victory provided me with one of my greatest moments in racing, especially as a spectator – and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.

I had rushed to get a good vantage point for the Stradbroke – it was the first time I’d been to Queensland’s premier raceday and I wanted to ensure I had one of the best seats in the house for what is their best race.

I stood near a gate which would have been very close to the finish line – the winning post makes it hard to tell at Eagle Farm but it was a good spot.

A couple of minutes before the race, I noticed I was standing near owners of different horses. Nearby I saw former Socceroos Craig Moore and Zeljko Kalac, part-owners of Buffering (the other three year old in the race, he ran a very brave fourth). I saw Sydney’s king of radio Alan Jones, one of the owners of Alverta. I also had many other people near me, all hoping their horse would win.

But they were all nearby. It wasn’t until a minute before the race that I realised I was surrounded by another large group of owners. I had no idea which horse they owned, or even if they were all in the same horse. They formed a semi circle around me, trying to get the best position. Little did I know that I was standing amongst the eventual winning owners of the Stradbroke Handicap.

A hush descended over the enclosure as the field jumped, despite the public cheering. To use one of the most overworked phrases in the English language, the tension was palpable.

It wasn’t until the 400m mark that the crowd surrounding me started to liven up. Cheers, gasps, sighs, shouts filled the air.

And then from the throng, I heard one girl moan as the field approached the 250m mark, “he’s not going to get out.”

At that stage, I still didn’t know who they were talking about. I knew by now they were the connections of one runner, but which one? The groaning was audible above the barracking of the public. And then, an instant later, the mood changed. Resignation turned to hope and disbelief. The cheers became louder and louder.

About 50m out, I knew who they were cheering for. I could see Sincero looming on the outside of Beaded. Ridden an absolute treat by Jason Taylor, the long striding Sincero was inching closer and closer. As always, however, Beaded knew how to respond in a dogfight.

But Sincero had the momentum and he had enough in store to beat Beaded by a short neck.

The crowd erupted. Everyone was hugging everyone else. I was hugged by a complete stranger. There were women in tears. For that matter, there were men in tears. There were fist pumps, kisses, hollering. It was quite the scene.

As the horse came back in to the winner’s circle, I asked one of the owners, how does it feel to be a part owner in a Stradbroke winner? He just punched the air. No words were needed.

It is a long explanation, but I want (no, I NEED) to do justice to the scenes I witnessed. They were breathtaking.

If only cameras had been there to capture those moments – the raw emotion of winning what is one of Australia’s premier races. Greg Radley and Sky Channel managed to get there as trainer Stephen Farley and Racenet journalist Clinton Payne embraced, and they captured some of those amazing scenes.

But they missed those crucial few seconds as the horse crossed the line. That footage would be worth a fortune. It would be gold for promoters in racing. I believe it would attract a whole new audience to racing, especially in an era when good news and good stories are generally desired but hard to find.

Most racing fans, and even many non-racing fans, dream of having a horse good enough to win a $1 million race. But for many, the notion is foreign. It is rare that you see large groups of owners celebrating a big race win. This season, for example, Darley has completed a clean sweep of the Group 1 races. While there is a large team working at Darley, the owner is Sheikh Mohammed. And the operation is very much professional. You don’t see the same elaborate celebrations.

There is no doubt that Beaded is a fantastic mare, any horse that is as consistent and as tough as her is obviously one incredible galloper. But if she had won yesterday, the atmosphere would have been different. Peter and Paul Snowden would have been emotional, I’m sure, and they would have deserved every accolade under the sun.

But the win of Sincero was made more special by the fact that it was the battlers that won. To be honest, the owners of the son of Umatilla are probably not “battlers” – but they aren’t the type of owners who watch their races from afar with only a passing interest in how the horse does.

If those celebrations don’t remind you why racing is such an incredible sport, nothing ever will.

There is no greater advertisement than seeing the excitement that racing brings. Look at the footage of the owner of Tears I Cry, Ann McGrath. Her shocked reaction as the 100-1 shot crossed the line to win the 2007 Emirates Stakes received coverage around the world. It was used as advertising for Seven News, for Seven Sport, it was even used last spring to advertise 7Mate! And that was three years after the event.

The jubilation, the euphoria, the hysteria, the emotion that comes with victory in a big race like the Stradbroke – it shows that dreams are the cornerstone of racing. It is these dreams, however fanciful and unrealistic, that will attract new blood, younger people to our great sport.

The reaction of the owners of Sincero was a far cry from the race before. Pasquale Stramandinoli only owns one horse, that being the eventual Queensland Derby winner Shootoff. Incredibly, however, as he began to speak of his delight at his horse’s success, he was stopped. Trainer Graeme Rogerson pulled him away from the throngs of media wanting to wish him well, in a move of sheer arrogance and contempt. It was not Stramandinoli’s fault at all, he was engaging in a meaningful discussion with the press. But a simple snub by the trainer changed the nature of Group 1 glory.

I guess it can be said that the actions of the owners after Sincero’s win changed the nature of his success as well – however, I’d argue it made the race that much more enriching for fans and spectators alike.

Bring on the spring – and may there be more wins for Sincero (and his owners) yet. Perhaps even a bigger victory is yet to come in the Cox Plate. And if that happens…well, racing may have a new marketing machine!

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