Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories:  Trotters 2001/2002 Season
Leg 4:  Australian Trotting Grand Prix 2001/2002Results   Points
             15/12/2001  Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Vic  2570m  Mobile Start  $100,000
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La Coocaracha was bred by well-known NSW breeder of pacers, John Bagshaw, Chairman of the NSW Lotteries. At one time Bagshaw owned Golden Gait Farm in partnership with trainer-driver Kevin Newman and the late Eddie Sims. He was breeding pacers even before Alan Galloway began Alabar Farm at Echuca.

In the years since, Bagshaw has played a key role in the development of Australia’s leading stud farm and owns a half of its highly respected stallions Safely Kept USA, Village Jasper USA, Armbro Operative USA and Barnett Hanover USA.

He had paid just $1000 for the mare Poetry and later bred Blake Castle (1:53.6 in the USA) and Rivertalk (2:00.0) When sending her to his own Safely Kept USA he had no reason not to expect another pacer. This stallion had been a fine pacer in the USA with a pedigree that included no known trotters in recent generations.

Melbourne owner Sam Christou (who won on the pacers’ Grand Circuit with Franco Ice NZ), had purchased yearlings in Melbourne bred by Bagshaw. In 1998 he contacted Bagshaw for advice, stating he was not interested in breeding, so what should he do with the mare Tulip Lobell USA?

John Bagshaw takes up the story. “I told him to take the mare to Alabar and I would swap her for the latest filly from Poetry.”  The breeder recalls that some months later he had another phone call from Christou who said: ‘That bloody filly is a trotter!’

It is not generally known, but Bagshaw did own the mare Ada Dillon and bred a foal that he thought looked more like a donkey than a standardbred. He wasted little time trying to sell her, finding a willing buyer in Victoria where she was then bred to Scottish Bret USA, a union that produced the finest trotting mare of the modern era, Scotch Notch.

In 1990 he purchased a mare in foal to Power Bunny USA. Not being too impressed with that sire, he sold off the filly foal. It later became the dam of Manifold Bay. Such are the uncertainties of horse breeding!


La Coocaracha

La Coocaracha certainly had grabbed the attention of the trotting industry with her impressive successes, firstly when trained at Maryborough, and then later when joining the powerful stables of Andy Gath. However, leading up to the longer distance of the Australian Trotting Grand Prix a week after winning the Bill Collins Mile, there were some who believed she might be vulnerable in this event.

Peter Taylor, then editor of Harness Racing Weekly, that week wrote: “Australia’s new ‘First Lady’ of trotting, La Coocaracha, will be the first to the pegs in Saturday’s $100,000 Trotting Grand Prix, but whether she will be there two and-half laps later is debatable. Connections of killer Kiwis, Take A Moment and Waihemo Hanger, and prices’ assessor Bill Hutchison, all agree she will be vulnerable this week over the testing 2570 metres,” he wrote in the paper’s main story for the week.

Even trainer Andy Gath sounded a warning to fans when he stated: “Winning a ‘Micky Mouse’ Mile in slow time is no guide to really assessing her true talent. We have never taken her to the bottom of the well. Perhaps when we get there, we won’t find anything.” Gath quickly considered what he had said, and added: “I’ll be amazed if she does not lead, and then it is up to the rest to try and get past her. If they can, then good luck to them. They will know they have been in a fight.”

Tim Butt, trainer of Take A Moment NZ, was playing his cards close to his chest that week by stating his first concern was having the horse trot well before making any ambitious plans. “He has an ideal draw, but it is a matter of getting through that first half mile and seeing what happens after that. We would prefer if the pace was on and that it develops into a true staying test so we don’t go home wondering.” The trainer’s last word on the subject spoken with a wry smile was: “Don’t expect too many quiet quarters if our horse is on its game.”

Butt got his wish with the Grand Prix having the speed on and with Take A Moment NZ racing up on the pace. But what should have been an absorbing dual between the two best trotters in Australasia, turned into a remarkable exhibition of trotting with La Coocaracha sailing away to a memorable victory over Take A Moment NZ and Son Of Flair. The mile rate for this longer journey was 2:01.9. Yet, it seemed this bonny mare could have taken a second or two off it had she been fully tested.

Immediately after the race, Sam Christou and his partner Bob Meani, announced the mare was not for sale. Christou explained they had been made several good offers to sell the daughter of Safely Kept USA, including one some days earlier made by American interests of $US250,000 – or around $450,000 Australian. “I must admit I did give the offer some thought until Bob made me realise what we would be missing out on if we sold her,” Christou said.

There was a down-side to retaining the mare which did not escape Christou. “We saw what handicaps Lyell Creek was asked to endure, which is precisely why his owners sent him overseas to race. Whether we sell her then, or race her overseas ourselves, I don’t really know. But if she is asked to do the impossible from handicaps, then we will have to look at all our options.”


Australian Trotters Grand Circuit commenced 1999/2000 season.

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