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A casual conversation when hosing down their horses after a race at Invercargill has led to the winner’s circle for two Otago horsemen.
Ricky Allen and Alan Shaw have combined to win twice in a row with veteran trotting mare, Anothersuperstar, the latest at Gore on Saturday.
Allen, who trains at Katiki Beach in North Otago, has been preparing the now 12-year-old since March after Shaw grew frustrated.
The latter had raced her over 100 times for seven wins and she had only just returned to the track after having a foal.
Allen takes up the story.
“She hurt herself in a paddock in an incident when she was an eight-year-old.
“It was going to be majorly expensive for Alan to get her fixed up to race again, something like $5000, which included a hock scrape.
“So, he decided to retire her and put her in foal.”
A colt by Superfast Stuart was born in late 2017, now named Superfastsuperstar.
“Once she had the foal, the mare started running around the paddock like a lunatic and he decided to start jogging her up again.”
Shaw got her back to race fitness and she returned to the track at the start of last season, two-and-a-half years after her last start.
But in eight starts, she never finished better than seventh and Shaw decided to sell her.
“I saw her advertised for sale somewhere, I can’t remember where exactly.
“I looked her up and was familiar with her family – the likes of Framalda (22 wins) and Superstaragogo (8 wins).
“Then at Invercargill earlier this year, I was hosing down Count Eyre after his race and Alan was hosing her down.
“We struck up a conversation and I asked what he was going to do with her.
“I think he’d had a few health issues and was keen for someone else to try her.
“I suggested the beach might suit her so we came to a bit of a gentleman’s agreement.”
Some make ask why Allen was keen to take on an 11-year-old Now Another Look mare that hadn’t placed for more than three years and had a formline like a packet of eggs.
“She had gotten right down in the ratings and was nearly a rating 40.
“Starting her off 30 metres against maidens was quite attractive and I thought quite doable.”
Three starts late, Anothersuperstar ran second at Forbury Park and Allen knew he was on to something.
By June he had engaged junior driver Ben Laughton to be her regular driver and they combined for five minor placings in quick succession before the recent winning double.
“I had seen him drive and liked what horses did for him.
“He’s a pleasant enough guy and very mature for his age.”
Allen hasn’t regretted the decision since.
“He certainly gets on with this old girl. He’s got good hands that suit her.”
Anothersuperstar’s brilliant standing start manners have seen a front-running mentality adopted by Laughton, and it has worked quite well.
“She needs to be kept up on the bit and he just seems to have a feeling for her. They click.”
The beach training is the obvious answer for the turnaround in her fortunes and Allen says Katiki Beach is harness racing’s best-kept secret.
“I’ve got six-and-a-half kilometers of beach to work on, surrounded by 35 acres of rolling hills.
“Usually I’ll take her down there for an hour-and-a-half.
“I like to interval train them. No watches, just feeling. The sand gets in the watches and they break down, anyway.
“With her, after being trained on a small track all her life, she really quite enjoys the freedom of the beach.
“A lot of horses accept it and relish it, and she’s one of them. She gets boxed up at night, too – it’s not a bad lifestyle.”
As you’d expect from an aging mare that likes to run along in front, and has had a foal, she’s got a bit of personality about her.
“She has her moments.
“Putting her cover on is still a task – she’ll try and give me a wee bit of a flick most days.
“She hasn’t caught me yet, but one these days she might.”
A return to the matron’s paddock is likely this season, with Allen keen to breed a foal from her himself.
“I’m not too sure how much further she’ll go, but this season should be the end of it.
“I think she’ll probably go in foal soon and then race on for a little bit.
“I have to talk to Alan – our agreement is pretty informal but I don’t think he’ll mind me breeding a foal out of her.”
As for her now two-year-old son, Allen has a desire to get his hands on him, too.
“Alan thinks quite highly of it.
“He hasn’t shown a lot of interest in sending him to me just yet but I haven’t finished trying to twist his arm.”