Zee Dana and his team at Menangle, New South Wales.
The trots community was deeply saddened earlier this week to hear of the passing of promising young pacer Zee Dana, who died as a result of a gastrointestinal problem.
The outpouring of support and emotion for all those connected with the popular pacer, who had his own social presence via Facebook and Twitter, again highlighted the love people in the trots have for their horses and how competitive rivalries are pushed aside in times of adversity.
One of the owners, Leigh, approached us this week with his reflections on being involved with Zee Dana, aka 'Boris', telling us how the horse brought a group of people together.
This is his story.
By Leigh Condie
I can’t speak for all owners but for our group in particular horse ownership has never been just about the money.
The friendships we have formed along the way, the social side of things, and getting family and friends involved is just as important.
The opportunity to travel around to see different race tracks is up there too. We had Tear It All Away a few years back, who ran in quite a few country cups including Mildura – we still head there every year for their carnival – it’s a fantastic few days, the Calcutta on the boat and karaoke at the brewery with Tom Hogan. Put it on your bucket list if you haven’t been before.
Wherever and whenever, rain hail or shine, we’ll always be there to support our horses and stable.
In the early days a two-hour drive to Ballarat from the east side of Melbourne, and the two hour drive back, was a decent hike – nowadays that’s like a drive to the local shops.
The first time I went to Ballarat was for Tear It All Away having his first trial. I think it was a Sunday morning, lucky to have been five degrees! We saw a guy wearing a singlet, shorts and thongs – thought he was a local. Turned out he was on holidays from Perth – his son was one of the other owners and he made the trip up with him to watch the trial.
These days we think nothing of a six or seven-hour round trip to watch our horses race; the only rules we really go by is if it's a night meeting, a four-hour or more drive there, and it’s a late race, we’ll generally stay the night. I’ve used plenty of annual leave over the years; a half or full day here and there. It’s not unusual that we lob at the trials too – Shepparton is a couple of hours away; a quick up and back; chances are we’ll be there. Not sure we’ll be doing that when Amanda (Turnbull) and Nathan (Jack) move to Sydney though.
None of us are millionaires. If the costs of our travel are covered by prizemoney then great; if not then so be it. It’s pretty hard to find cheap flights to Sydney from Melbourne a week out from a race – Campbelltown has a bit of cheap accommodation and the Ibis have had our fair share of business over the past year or so.
Fortunately Boris, aka Zee Dana, won two of his three races up at Menangle, the Ready To Run and the Derby Heat, so the cost of our trips on those occasions were pretty much covered.
Quite a few of us made the trip up to Leeton on New Year’s Day to watch Zee Dana. That was an overnighter for us Melbournians as it was a six-hour drive up there.
Shirley Hargreaves, mum of vet Greg, jumped in her car and drove the 400 odd kilometres from Wedderburn to Leeton by herself just to see Boris run. She stayed the night too.
Steve Ward was happy as he’s in Wagga so it was only an hour-and-a-half drive there for him.
Michael Maxwell contemplated coming over for Perth for it but I don’t think there were any direct flights from Perth to Leeton that day so he had to stay home. I’ll never forget that night as Nathan and Amanda were involved in a nasty crash at the start; fortunately they were OK. Then the power went out just before our race – thank God it wasn’t during it. For a while there I thought we’d be heading home without seeing him a run – fortunately they found an electrician and the power eventually came back on and Boris won quite well so the trip up was worth it in the end.
Boris was a pretty popular fella. When he was running at Melton you didn’t need to check which stall he was in, you could just tell from the crowd in the public viewing area made up of our friends and family that came along to support him. Shirley was often there with probably a dozen or more of her family; Michael made the trip over from Perth for the Breeders Crown final to watch him; the Wagga crew made the trip down to watch him. In Sydney for his Derby Heat win there probably would have been 30 or 40 members of our various families there – you couldn’t move in the owners’ room afterwards, it was amazing.
He was pretty prolific on social media too – he had his own Facebook page and Twitter account. I’ve got no idea how he managed to type, his keyboard must have been huge!
We only got to see Boris out there 13 times (that number really is unlucky) but every time there was always a group of owners there to support him. He may not have had the record of a Lazarus or Waikiki Beach, and he didn’t have that Group 1 victory to his name, but his two NSW Derby runs showed that he was headed in the right direction – we couldn’t wait to see what he could do in this year’s Breeders Crown series; but sadly we can only imagine what might have been. High early and high late speed, they don’t come around very often. It’s going to be pretty difficult watching it this year.
The support we have received over the past few days has been quite overwhelming (Nathan will attest to that). We’ve had literally hundreds of messages of condolence on his Facebook page and twitter – from the wider harness racing community, casual observers of the sport and complete strangers – quite amazing really. It would take a long time to thank them all individually. It’s hard to believe that one minute you can be racing against another stable then the next they are there to give you support – something that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
Hoofnote - Harness Racing Victoria extends its condolences and best wishes to all connected with Boris.
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