Hector Launches magical return

For many observers/punters, Hector Fawley may have been one of the forgotten runners in the heats of the rich Group 3 Launching Pad (515m) at Sandown Park last Thursday night.

It was a case of being out of sight, out of mind.

When Hector Fawley sizzled around Sandown in 29.25sec way back on November 3, reaching the Launching Pad’s eligibility limit with his sixth career win, the rich restricted wins series wasn’t on the radar.

Lisa Cockerell’s homegrown son of Bernardo and Rolanda Hooch and a grandson of dual G1 Sapphire Crown finalist Finlandia, had burst onto the scene last August, clocking 29.33sec at Sandown at both his fourth and fifth career starts.

“It was so exciting watching him and how he won, but then it was just the absolute relief that he’s back!”

However, at his next start, in a Melbourne Cup prelude, the G3 SA Derby finalist “snapped” an Achilles tendon.

The injury kept him out of action for the best part of five months and inadvertently brought the 1-6 wins, 1-30 starts Launching Pad, the final of which next Thursday, April 6, is worth $150,000 to-the-winner, into play.

“It’s been a long road!” said Lisa Cockerell.

“It hurt a lot. He’s definitely right up there with Finlandia, Cornelius Fudge and Polijuice Potion.

“We were pretty confident he would come back; Des Fegan (veterinary surgeon) did a great job and we spoke to other people who’ve had dogs come back from the same injury.

“He was ready to race a few weeks previous, but we decided to aim for the Launching Pad, and he already had six wins, so we couldn’t afford another one!”

WATCH: “Here comes Hector!” HECTOR FAWLEY (B7) made a barnstorming return to racing when powering home to win his G3 Launching Pad heat in 29.40sec at his first start since November 12.

Lisa and husband Ian, who are based at Buckley, bided their time patiently, waiting for last Thursday’s Launching Pad heats.

Hector Fawley ($5.50), named after a Minister for Magic in the Harry Potter series, following a long-held Cockerell theme, had to contend with box seven in the last of eight run-offs.

Hector Fawley was trapped four-wide rounding the first turn, but unleashed a powerful finishing burst in the home straight, charging along the inside to defeat Osprey Athena in 29.40sec, his seventh win from 16 starts and fourth from nine appearances at Sandown.

“It was so exciting watching him and how he won, but then it was just the absolute relief that he did it and he’s back!” Lisa said.

“He had to come from behind; so he didn’t have things his own way.

“We knew he was still a little bit underdone, but we were really happy with the way he was trialling. We thought even if he’s not 100 per cent fit for the heats, there’s still the consolation events that are part of the Launching Pad.

“He pulled up really well. The next morning you wouldn’t have known he’d raced.”

Hector Fawley will exit box five in his semi-final on Thursday night, where he’ll clash with Emily Azzopardi’s 29.46sec heat winner Canya Exceed (box 6), winner of four of his five starts, and Robert Britton’s impressive NSW import Trooper Tears (box 8).

“The box draws haven’t been favourable but at least he’s getting closer to the rail!” Lisa quipped.

Hector Fawley’s barnstorming return to the track led the Cockerell family into a memorable weekend.

On Sunday, daughter Morgan, 12, was crowned Federation Equestre Internationale (FSI) Children’s Tour Champion at the PSI Dressage and Jumping With The Stars competition at Werribee Park.

The victory against international competition saw Morgan gain a world ranking of 65.

“I’d compare it to winning a Group 1 race,” a proud Lisa said.

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