As regular readers of my columns will know, I’m a huge fan of Richie Callander, and as is my wont with all my mates I will defend him and his opinions until well over the final hurdle and past the winning line.
When they are at least half-correct that is.
The big man’s appraisal of the grand Kiwi galloper Te Akau Shark as merely the best of a bad bunch going around in the Chipping Norton in a couple of weeks is so wide of the mark that it’s hit the Wake Up Australia sign on the advertising sideboards.
This Shark is no average deadly beast my friends; he is an out and out superstar.
What horse wins on debut and runs a final split of 34.72 on a bottomless Heavy 9 track about to be downgraded to a swimming pool 10? The only other horse that even broke 36 seconds on that day was Xbox, and a few starts later it came out and killed them in the Group 2 Waikato Guineas. The Shark was only blitzing them in a maiden.
Three starts later – after nearly a year off the scene through injury – the mighty gelding came out and ran his final three furlongs in 34.64 seconds first up on a bog Slow 7 track that was considerably wetter carrying 60kg. Only two other horses broke 36 seconds for their last 600 metres on that day, and neither of them got within a second of the Shark’s time. One of them was ten-time Group 1 winner Melody Belle. She ran 35.91.
Te Akau Shark finally struck a dry track in the Coupland Bakeries Mile two starts later. He won of course, wearing concussion plates and all, and sizzled home the last six in Black Caviar-like time of 32.39 seconds, and then it was off to Australia where in 3 successive starts he ran second in the Tramway lumping 57kg, second to Kolding in the Epsom giving that crack galloper the 4 kilos that Richie describes, and third in the Cox Plate to one of world’s best middle distance stayers Lys Gracieux.
At his first run since the Shark resumed at Te Rapa last week, and on a dead 4 track with 59kg on his back he ran 1.21.70 over the 1400m trip in taking out the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint, a race won over the years by an array of NZ racing greats including Veandercross, Mr Tiz, Courier Bay (twice), Sunline (twice), Xtravagant, Our Poetic Prince and Melody Belle herself.
To put the Shark’s time on the damp track into perspective, in nine cracks at the 1400 metres Winx ran faster than that just once, at her fourth last start in last year’s Apollo Stakes when she won in 1.20.88. And before you or Richie start saying that the Kiwi times are dodgy, to save you both the embarrassment I draw to your attention that the track record times for the distance at Randwick and Te Rapa are only 0.07 seconds apart, 1.20.33 v 1.20.40.
Richie reckons the evens on offer in the Chipping Norton are unders. I think he’s lost his mind. The yours for theirs is the greatest overs since the Romans laid Jesus at 5-2 to win the Resurrection Stakes.
The Shark’s about to bite sportsfans. Don’t get caught in the backing against him net.
When it comes to Te Akau Shark how good is good Richie?
Absolutely brilliant, as you’re about to find out.