Australasian Grand Circuit
Stories: Pacers 2003/2004 Season
Melton pacer Persistency (evens fav) had to dig really deep in the final stages to claim the Federal Hotels & Resorts Tasmanian Championship over fellow mainland performers Folsom Blues (16-1) and Hexus (7-4) in a three-way photo-finish.
Persistency when a three-year-old looked to have the pacing world at its feet when a serious leg injury (ring bone) sent it for a long spell. Three times in the following six years different injuries again threatened to end its racing days. Each time trainer-driver Gavin Lang and his staff persevered with the now nine-year-old gelding, recently surprising many by winning the gruelling two-mile Kilmore Cup. It was favourite throughout betting when collecting its first Grand Circuit race at the Hobart Showgrounds.
The sole backmarker off 10 metres, Persistency began safely. Up front, the polemarker All Talk NZ flew the stand to take up a clear early lead. The Warp Drive also began fast from its awkward second-line draw to be running second inside the first lap. Danny Gallagher driving Hexus (recently placed in the SEW Eurodrive Victoria Cup) seemed happy to be up leading the outside line.
The track size of the Hobart Showgrounds meant this race was over almost four laps of the track. Mainland drivers seem well aware how the big races there are won from up front. The usual jostle to be up on the pace at the bell saw Persistency making its move out three wide, with The Warp Drive breathing right down the back of Anthony Butt on the leader All Talk NZ.
Down the back the last time All Talk NZ suddenly veered away from the rail, going into a gallop, checking and locking wheels for a moment with The Warp Drive.
Folsom Blues, driven by local horseman Scott Ford, was looming as a real threat around the hometurn, with the smart stayer Hexus still right there and responding under hard driving.
The Hobart straight is just 127m long, the shortest of any metropolitan track in Australia. But to the trio fighting out this finish, the winning post would have seemed much further away. On straightening, it was Persistency that for a moment, seemed the one most likely to drop off.
Under hard driving from Lang, Persistency really stood up to its name to gain the decision right on the line by only a half-head over Folsom Blues, with Hexus a nose away third. After the race Lang was quick to state how this was the first time he had driven this horse so aggressively. From Australia’s best reinsman who rarely resorts to hard driving, it sounded like an apology to his equine mate.
“I have had this horse since he was a yearling and to win this race means a hell of a lot to me, and everyone connected with him,” said Lang. “Some might even regard the gelding as an under-achiever because of the potential he showed early. But to come back from the injuries he has had and do what he has this season, is a testament to his courage and ability.”
For the record, Persistency’s problems with ring bone were followed by a hole in a suspensory, then later a curbed hock. During his seven-year-old days the horse had a hair-line fracture of a splint bone. Any of these four injuries could easily have ended its racing career.
From just 73 lifetime starts, Persistency has now won 28 of these with 24 placings for stakemoney of almost $570,000. It was Gavin Lang’s second Tasmanian Pacing Championship having driven Voight to victory in 1988 for trainer John McLean.
The uncertainty of horse travel by plane these days prevented Bendigo’s Wally Walton from making the trip. The horse was booked on a late flight from Melbourne into Hobart when connections were advised by the air carrier that the horse would have to fly without a handler. Connections would have none of that, and quickly pulled the plug on going.
Persistency and Hexus both travelled on board the Spirit Of Tasmania to Devonport and later arrived in Hobart none the worse for the trip across Bass Strait. Several other Melbourne pacers also travelled this way, with Bo Jasper (John Caldow) winning the Tasmanian Derby, and Ruffle My Feathers (Kerryn Gath) taking out the Classic for Mares, the George Johnson Mile.
One of the conditions this season for winning the Tasmanian Pacing Championship is a ballot-free entry into the time honoured A.G. Hunter Cup over two miles at Moonee Valley in February.
Persistency is raced by Lang’s wife Anita, his mother Dot (wife of Graeme), professional punter Tom Hogan (now living on the Gold Coast), and family friend Glen Dowson. Because of the ongoing injury problems for Persistency, it was Dowson who several years ago built a swimming pool at the Lang stables for his pacer to use as part of its rehabilitation programs.
Lang explained how this Grand Circuit victory had given him the biggest thrill of his long and highly successful career, as he had early decided to bypass the Victoria Cup and focus on the Tasmanian Pacing Championship.
“To be realistic, he is probably not quite as good as he was a couple of years ago, but I thought my best chance with him this season was to go after a couple of major standing-start races,” The Kilmore Cup win was also off a handicap of 10 metres.
Gavin Lang had the final say on the gutsy effort of Persistency. “He is a warrior with immense courage. He showed that in Hobart after he was clearly headed up the straight by Folsom Blues. I knew if I kept on driving, he would keep on finding.”