Hewitt's Sea of Excitement

24 May 2024 | Adam Hamilton
Extreme Sea

Extreme Sea

IF you believe in the harness racing gods, they have delivered what's only fair for veteran Aussie horseman David Hewitt, with Extreme Sea coming along in the twilight of his career.

The four-year-old pacer has raced just nine times, but everyone in Down Under harness racing is talking.

One of those is top Aussie driver Nathan Jack, who insists Extreme Sea is the horse to beat in the world's richest harness race, the $A2.1mil TAB Eureka at Menangle on September 7.

"He's a beast. I know the team very well, and they've been telling me for ages how good the horse is," Jack said. 

"I think he'll win the Eureka. He's got unbelievable speed, but he's not weak either."

"In 12 months from now, I think he's the sort of horse everyone will be raving about."

As if beating some serious horses to win the $A100,000 Riverina Championship final at just his seventh race start on March 31 wasn't exciting enough, Extreme Sea has gone to a whole new level in two runs since.

He won a heat of the NSW Regional Metropolitan series at Menangle by 25.1m in a 1min54.3sec mile rate for 2300m on May 7 and stepped it up again to win the $A100,000 final by 26.1m in a staggering 1min52.8sec mile rate – just 1.4sec outside the track record – last Saturday night.

It will be a big shock if he doesn't repeat the dose in the overall $A100,000 NSW Regional final again at Menangle this Saturday night.

"As good as the past couple of wins have been, and they have been amazing, horses can't do what he did at Wagga. That's when I saw what the Hewitt's had been telling about him. I just shook my head at that win," Jack said.

It was that Wagga win which convinced leviathan owner Wayne Loader to make an early move and snap-up Extreme Sea for his TAB Eureka slot.

You have to go back about 30 years to understand why Extreme Sea is such a special horse to David Hewitt and his family.

That's when Hewitt was training a freakishly talented pacer called Red Sea.

Many felt he was the best pacer in Australia on sheer talent, but he was littered with injury issues.

With much care, attention and genius from Hewitt, Red Sea managed 24 starts – albeit across almost six years – and won 21 of them with two placings.

Hewitt remembers the day he saw a group of well-known Victorians in Sydney, and they told him how highly they rated Rea Sea.

"He'd beat Golden Reign; he's that good," they told him.

Golden Reign was the same age as Red Sea and became a champion with 28 wins, including a famous 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion, and banked almost $1.2 million.

"The best run at it (racing) my guy had was ten starts in the 1994/95 season, and he won all ten starts. That's when those Victorians told me how good they thought he was," Hewitt said.

"He's a long, long story Red Sea. He had problems with all four legs in the end.

"It was such a shame to have a horse with his talent and never really get the chance to show it.

"I never thought I'd get another one like him, but maybe I have."

That's what makes the horse so special to the family, according to Hewitt's son, Brad, who has driven Extreme Sea in all nine runs and is one of NSW's most successful horsemen.

"I'm just so stoked for Dad (David) and Mum (Maree). Dad's in his mid-60s now and worked seven days a week for as long as anyone can remember," Brad said.

"All my life, I've heard the Red Sea stories. How good he was and what might have been without his injuries. Dad always said he'd never get another one like him and now this horse has come along.

"Red Sea was well before my time. I was just born, maybe six months old, when he won the Sapling Stakes as a two-year-old.

"It's such a great time for this horse to come along and he's got all the making of being a horse to take Dad into the big races, including the Grand Circuit, for the next few years. Not just part of it, but a serious player in it."

Thankfully, Extreme Sea's lack of racing for a four-year-old hasn't been due to injuries, more little niggles and some quirks.

"He was actually up and going at the very start of his two-year-old year, and we had him paid up for Bathurst (Gold Crown, the first big Aussie two-year-old race of the year)," Hewitt said.

"He was a very good two-year-old, but there were a few little soreness things, so we decided to give him time with the talent he'd shown.

"Then, when he came back, he galloped in his first qualifier when he pulled out from another horse's back to make his run, and it really scared him. It got in his head, and it's taken time to get him through that."

Extreme Sea still hadn't raced when last year's inaugural TAB Eureka was run at Menangle.

"We've always felt he's one out of the box, but he's been slow to mature and needed time. Dad's given him that and looks to be getting the rewards now," Brad said.

"I know he's not beating much, but you can tell by watching, and I certainly can when driving him, that he is a special talent.

"Those runs at Wagga in March have really brought him on. He just feels like a different horse, more tractable and mature I mean, in his past three runs and he should just keep getting better like that, too."

Providing this week goes as planned, Extreme Sea looks set to travel interstate for what could be the first of many times in his career.

The riches of the Queensland Constellations winter racing at Albion Park awaits him.

And so, too, does some serious opposition, which will give a much clearer guide to where he sits in the TAB Eureka pecking order.

"He'll need to be racing when those good races are on in Brisbane to get ready for the Eureka, so it might as well be for good money up there. The experience will be good for him as well," David Hewitt said.

"It's the good thing about already having our Eureka slot. Thanks to Wayne (Loader), we can pick and choose the right races to prepare him without having to worry about whether we get a slot or not."

Father and son will travel together, but that's when things could get tricky.

One of Brad's stable stars, Captains Knock, is also Queensland-bound and is another to have landed an early TAB Eureka slot through Cordina Racing.

"Yeah, it's not ideal to have a top four-year-old of my own in the same season, but we'll deal with that when we have to," Brad said.

That could come as early as the $A350,000 Group 1 Rising Sun at Albion Park on July 10. It's a target race for both pacers.


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