There is a fine line between triumph and disaster and never more so than in the Sport of Kings.
It was the The Doc, with his gimlet eyes, that faithfully alerted me to the fact that Natasha Faithfull had almost been dislodged at the start of the second race on the ultimate winner, Ancient Spell.
Few others spotted it, including the connections and trainer, Wolfeman Steve (he is no relation to the late Wolfman Jack, who was the the famous gravelly voiced US disc jockey and a dark bay).
I was with our famous Wolfeman, the grey, when he was watching the replay with the owners after the race and they realised just how lucky they had been in surviving the start.
Having checked The Doc’s forensic skills with apprentice Natasha Faithfull just minutes earlier I knew what was coming on the replay. As Faithfull said succinctly, “I thought I was gone at the start.”
Indeed, the diminutive apprentice did well to not only stay in the saddle as the horse lurched sideways out of the barrier but also in keeping her stirrup irons. She was, as the stewards noted, ‘severely unbalanced’ for a short distance ( I know a few people at the races who are severely unbalanced most of the time).
Faithfull had Ancient Spell on a loose rein at the barrier because he can pull and tear if grabbed hold of too firmly.
Despite the handicap of the poor start she was quickly into second position on her charge and stayed there until running past the pacemaker Magna Cat (Alex Hearn) in the home straight.
Wolfeman Steve, described it as a “heady ride” and it was but it went so close to being a landing on her head ride!
The start of this ordinary 2000m race, on October 5, reminded me of the day John Claite fell off Famous Roman in the 2008 WA Derby, of all races, after that colt similarly lurched sideways at the start.
We never ever did find out whether Famous Roman could have stayed the 2400m journey as the classic was his only start over the journey.
Faithfull completed a good day completing a double after Teen Idol won the sixth race by a nose over It’s A Merc (Jerry Noske). The second galloper almost pinched it as he had his head down whereas the photo reveals the winner with the head up at the finish.
Did Faithfull sense déjà vu in this race? Again the Stewards report is instructive recording that ‘Teen Idol commenced awkwardly and bumped heavily’ before racing up on the pace in second position behind It’s A Merc.
Replying to stewards questioning Faithfull said Teen Idol was racing keenly and that rather than trying to steady the gelding she let him stride forward.
Not an easy day for ‘Tash of the Saddle’ but ultimately a very rewarding one for the diminutive rider.
Perth Racing would also be happy with its art of recovery from a poor ‘Grand Final’ attendance, on September 28, to a very good Irish Day crowd last Saturday, October 5.
On the former day, dressed in my gold and brown Hawthorn finery, I went looking for a few Dorkers to shirtfront late in the day. There were none – the birds had flown!
Perhaps it was just as well the large screen had imploded as it put them out of their misery early. But the meeting had all the atmosphere of the Ascot Racing Museum (which is closed) and with about the same attendance.
In contrast last Saturday reminded me of Rorke’s Drift, Zululand, in January 1879 (which was a bit different to my peaceful visit there in 1986 when shy Zulu school girls welcomed me with smiles).
But instead of teeming Zulus charging beleaguered British redcoats it was the Army of the Green, everywhere.
Mind you there were a few Perth Racing members who thought they were being overwhelmed at one stage after rain sent the teeming leprechauns over the members battlements!
But instead of assegais it was green bottles everywhere.
I saw Clive Ruland completely surrounded but fighting a gallant rear guard action to preserve his seat and doing a better job of it than Sophie Mirabella did in the Federal Election. John Godfrey was also completely surrounded at one stage, by femme fatales but seemed happy enough to surrender!
The Pillster retrieved his binoculars in a dashing fashion, akin to saving the colours of the regiment, while The Doc was trying to stamp out smoke fumes (I thought of the hospital at Rorkes Drift, during the famous battle, but couldn’t spare any men to assist him!).
But just as the ‘Begosh and Begorrahs’ were settling in, on the members deck, a courageous Asian security lady arrived and swept them all away.
For sheer valour this equalled Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead’s actions, not to mention the other nine VC winners, at Rorkes Drift.
But nevertheless getting bums on seats – if only for a while- was encouraging for Perth Racing