Kooralbyn based trainer Kelvin Hickmott and his 2YO Smart Cookie were photographed by Dan Costello at Ipswich last Friday. Justracing asks how can one man keep heavily raced 2YO's so sound? After alot of research, you can take it as read that Kelvin Hickmott's former 2YO Coffee Time holds the Australian record for the number of starts at age two - at an incredible 23.
Across the century and a half of thoroughbred racing in Australia, it would appear from most stories that you read that three two-year-olds share a triple dead-heat for the most number of starts in their 2YO year. The most recent ones that got written up everywhere were the Bindy Cheers trained Lucky Elmo in the 2008/2009 racing season and the Kelvin Hickmott trained Taabinga Lass in the 2004/2005 season who both shared the distinction of both having had 20 starts in their 2YO season. Then to throw a cat among the pigeons on that score, revered breeding expert Brian Russell chimed into the debate with the fact that an Australian horse called David, who raced in the early 1900’s, and who later stood at stud, had also started 20 times in his 2YO season. So across the last say 110 years of thoroughbred racing, it seemed fairly safe to say that David, Lucky Elmo and Taabinga Lass all started 20 times at age two and thus held that record. But that information is not correct after I’d done some research following my talking to 56-year-old thoroughbred trainer Kelvin Hickmott who told me yesterday that he had a 2YO called Coffee Time “which also started about 20 times as a 2YO”. So I checked into Coffee Time’s form and alas unless anyone can come up with a two-year-old that had more starts, it is safe to say that she is the most raced two-year-old in thoroughbred racing history in Australia, as she started 23 times in the 2005/2006 racing season. She won just one of her 23 starts, an Ipswich 1200-metre Maiden on 23/6/06, when ridden by Beaudesert based jockey Sheree Drake.
Last Friday at Ipswich however, an amazing racing event happened which sadly went unnoticed everywhere, but it is certainly worth bringing to public attention. You see the two-year-old daughter of Taabinga Lass, Smart Cookie, who is also trained by Kelvin Hickmott, stepped out at Ipswich in the last race on the card and in doing so she was having her seventeenth start as a 2YO. She headed off to the barriers as the $4.20 favourite on the heavy 10 track, before clocking in third to Mann Magic and Show Meira.
Whilst Smart Cookie will narrowly miss equalling the 20 starts at two that her mother Taabinga Lass had, by just one - as her trainer Kelvin Hickmott told me yesterday that she will start again this Saturday at the Gold Coast and the following Saturday at Toowoomba, her soundness is quite amazing, as numerous 2YO’s go shinsore, to the point where many from within their ranks don’t even make it to the racetrack of dreams at that age. To think that a mother and her daughter could cumulatively have 39 starts (Taabinga Lass 20 and Smart Cookie 19) at 2YO is probably another Australian thoroughbred record in itself.
So I asked Kooralbyn based trainer Kelvin Hickmott, who has “been training on and off for 12 years” on his 12-acre property, why he thought both Taabinga Lass, her daughter Smart Cookie, as well as Coffee Table were so tough as two-year-olds, and he advised, “I think it’s in the way I train. I swim my horses a lot and don’t do much galloping with them. In fact every time they need a gallop I put them in a race. Plus they are out in a big paddock all the time and don’t seem to ever have leg problems. Additionally this is all black soil country here, so they are on very good pasture”. Interesting also is the fact that both Coffee Table and Smart Cookie are by the same sire – Wurabinda.
Whilst Taabinga Lass won a city race in her 2YO year, Smart Cookie won’t equal that feat, as her only win in her 17 starts at 2YO to this point has been in an Ipswich Maiden 2YO race on 3/2/12 on a heavy 9 track at 12/1 for apprentice Tegan Harrison. That Ipswich win and four other placings has seen Smart Cookie’s prizemoney grow to $27,500 in her first season of racing. Kelvin has an added incentive to get Smart Cookie to win in town as he part owns the filly with his fiancé Judith Orevich.
Asked whether Smart Cookie would ever emulate multiple city winner Taabinga Lass by scoring in town, Kelvin stated, “well I didn’t initially think she was going to be as good as Taabinga Lass, but I’ve run her in a couple of Class 1’s and she looks like she will be. I’m hoping she can win a race or two in town”.
The background of all these “tough as nails” budget priced horses of Kelvin Hickmott’s is interesting to research as well, as figuratively speaking all have only cost him about a round of drinks. For her part Taabinga Lass entered the world on 22/9/2002 as the daughter of Danzig’s son Darbonne, who had commenced stud duties at Neville Stewart’s Oakland Stud outside Toowoomba in 1997 at a service fee of just $2,500. In his racing career overseas Darbonne had 25 starts of which he won six races, mainly at the Nad Al Sheba racecourse. Darbonne didn’t win at black type level, but he had run a Group 1 placing at Leopardstown and a Group 3 placing at Royal Ascot on his CV. In fact Taabinga Lass was totally an Oakland Stud product, as whilst she was by their stallion Darbonne, as stated, the dam of Taabinga Lass was Maid Millie who was a great granddaughter of champion stallion Mr Prospector via Oaklands failed imported stallion Saw Mill, who stood for a service fee of $3,300. Saw Mill had “failed sire” written all over him before he ever served a mare, as he’d had 40 starts, winning three races from 10 starts at 2YO – and not winning another race in 16 starts at 3YO or 14 starts at 3YO.
When retired to stud, Taabinga Lass first date was with the heavily raced grey stallion Top Marc, but she missed to him. In 2009 she was taken just down the road from her Kooralbyn home to be mated with local Beaudesert based sire Wurabinda, who at the time was standing for current thoroughbred trainer Helen Van Hoeyen at her “Kerry Road Thoroughbreds” property for a service fee of $2,200. For his part Wurabinda, a 1997 foaled chestnut stallion by 1993 champion European 2YO Grand Lodge, started 10 times in his racing career for just one win – in a Moonee Valley 1200-metre race as a 2YO. In his 3YO year he failed to win a race in seven starts, but he did run second at Group 3 level in the C.S. Hayes Stakes at Moonee Valley to classy Sound The Alarm and he also ran second at Listed level to Crystal Finale in the Tupperware Cup at Caulfield.
So the union of Wurabinda and Taabinga Lass that produced a filly foal on 18/9/09 that would grow up to be named Smart Cookie, was sadly the only foal that Taabinga Lass would have before her untimely passing on 1/12/10. Kelvin advised “Taabinga Lass had a lot of trouble giving birth to Smart Cookie and she had to be put down after twisting her pelvis in a paddock accident”.
So Kooralbyn trainer Kelvin Hickmott has clearly demonstrated over numerous two-year-olds that he has had during his relatively short training career, that he has the secret to getting numerous starts out of those youngsters at age two – whilst still having a horse to go on with at 3YO and beyond.
In terribly sad exclusive news I can advise that one of the nice guys of the racing industry, Toowoomba based Japanese jockey Nori Yamada, will never ride again. Nori was the toast of Toowoomba racing earlier this year when he won the prestigious Weetwood Handicap in that city aboard the Michael Nolan trained Miss Imagica. Nori subsequently had a fall at a Clifford Park meeting on 9 June and current medical opinion is that he should never ride again. After that 9 June fall I wrote on Justracing the following Monday: “Toowoomba jockey Nori Yamada had a fall early on Saturday evening at Clifford Park in Toowoomba and he was taken to hospital after the fall. They checked him over at the hospital and let him go home, but he woke up feeling ordinary on Sunday morning and he went back to hospital – where he underwent further tests - and he’s has now been diagnosed with a fractured L2 and L3 vertebra, which is simply more proof that doctors and hospitals bury their mistakes. Just terrific stuff – some of the hospital staff would obviously slot straight into a senior role in the racing industry with that sort of ability”. Nori and his charming wife Maki have a 2YO son named Mizuki and the couple had decided that everything was going so well for them that they should have another child - and to that end Maki is pregnant again.
Then in equally terrible sad non-exclusive news, BOTRA Secretary, Margaret Reynolds, has put out this Media Release overnight about harness racing's John Tabone who is fighting for his life in a Brisbane hospital. Margaret’s Media Release in full reads:
The horrific accident involving John Tabone in Race 1 today has distressed competitors and John's friends at Albion Park.
John was catapulted out from "Ohio" after another horse stood on a shoe in the race.
John has suffered severe head injuries and is in the critical care ward in Royal Brisbane hospital, his wife Josephine is staying at the hospital overnight.
When we get further news we will let you know.
Albion Park chairman Kevin Seymour has been at the hospital this afternoon to show support for everyone in the industry and to let Josephine know that John's horses will be looked after and the club will take care of hospital and medical expenses.
It is important we let Josephine and John know that the harness racing family is there to support them.
Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there is the first of two huge montages of photos from Marburg harness last Sunday, Ipswich twilight greyhounds yesterday, Doomben last Saturday and Grafton Cup day and Ramornie day last week. On www.sydneyracing.com.au tribute is paid to the recently departed stallion Blevic, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls catches up with a trainer who was thrilled to just run second.