If Photo Man can make a triumphant return to The Meadows on Saturday night, it would be almost as satisfying – and every bit as emotional – for Gavin Clifton as his Group 1 Topgun victory last November.
Clifton says it’s a miracle – worthy of a movie script – that Photo Man is racing at all after the once-in-a-lifetime sprinter was struck down by a mystery illness.
“He’s lucky to be here,” said Clifton, who owns and trains Photo Man in partnership with cousin David McKenzie.
“When I was leaving Sandown Vet Clinic one night, I gave him a pat and thought this is the last time I’m going to pat you.”
“He had a bit of hock soreness, which meant we had to scratch him from the Hobart Thousand heats, so we gave him six to eight weeks off.
“We got him back and he was flying again, and we thought ‘How good is this!’
“But then we got a dog down from Sydney that got crook and Photo Man got sick too, but he was much worse.
“He was in intensive care at Sandown Vet Clinic and spent three nights on a drip.
“When I was leaving one night, I gave him a pat and thought this is the last time I’m going to pat you.
WATCH: PHOTO MAN (9) led all-the-way in his dominant 29.91sec Group 1 Topgun triumph on November 5, with superstars AMRON BOY (10) and WOW SHE’S FAST (5) among those in his wake.
“He was down to 28 kilos (Photo Man weighed in at 32.4kgs on Topgun night). You wouldn’t have believed it was the same dog. Just getting him home to live on the couch was the goal.
“Huge thanks to Alastair (Smith) and the girls at Sandown Vet Clinic. They did an incredible job, and we can’t thank them enough.”
Photo Man hasn’t won since the Topgun on November 5, albeit injury and illness have restricted him to only seven starts, all at Sandown Park.
The December ’19 son of Aston Dee Bee and Amlin Mystique will make his first appearance at The Meadows since that memorable all-the-way victory against the best of the best in race 8 on Saturday night (9.05pm).
Drawn in box two, Photo Man is a $5 chance with Sportsbet and Clifton couldn’t be happier with him.
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“The dog is flying,” he said.
“He’s never been a trial dog, but he’s going as good as he ever has.
“And most importantly, he’s jumping out of his skin and feeling like a million dollars. Otherwise we’d give him a crack at being a stud dog.
“He hasn’t had much luck at Sandown his last couple of starts, so I decided to take him somewhere different.
“There’s no easy races for him. Everywhere you enter him, he’s going to be top grade, and Saturday is a pretty good race.
“He needs to come out like he did in the Topgun, and fingers crossed he gets a bit of luck early.
“We’ll give him another couple of cracks at it and if it doesn’t go his way, we’re not going to over-race him.
“He doesn’t need to win another race, but it would be nice if he could. We could write our own movie script about getting him back to the races.”
It was one year ago that Photo Man celebrated his first feature success, defeating fellow Victorian Amron Boy in the G2 Flying Amy Classic in Brisbane.
Clifton is hopeful Photo Man’s resume, which is also punctuated by third placings in both the G1 Adelaide and Brisbane Cups, an appearance in the Million Dollar Chase Final, and city wins in four states, will prove appealing to breeders when the time comes.
“We’ve got 15 or 20 straws ready to go,” he said.
“We’ve used him with our Collision bitch, Small Soldier. I’ve always wanted to breed with a daughter of Collision, and Small Soldier’s mother, Juno Away, is a litter sister to a very good bitch we trained called Princess Pout (G1 Sapphire Crown, G1 National Futurity and G2 Launching Pad finalist).”