I knew little of Eduardo until I received an email from my old friend Ken Boman late in September. Ken is an experienced racing journalist, who in recent years has been writing a column called “On The Watch” for ANZ Bloodstock News - the specialist PDF publication dedicated to the Australasian Bloodstock industry.
Ken’s role is to highlight the outstanding sectional times of the week, and in analysing the Caulfield meeting for September 22nd, 2018, he stumbled upon some breathtaking splits recorded by a lightly raced five year old called Eduardo.
Having only his third race start, the chestnut gelding jumped to the lead in the Sports Club Hcp (1100 metres), and proceeded to reel off some rare figures. From the 1000 to the 600 metres he posted an astonishing 20.16, followed by a split of 11.11 for the next 200 metres (that’s 31.27 for 600 metres). The next 200 metres was put behind in 11.46, giving him an 800 sectional of 42.73(from the 1000 metres to the 200 metres).
Predictably he shortened stride in the last 200 metres, and was grabbed by Spending To Win, in an overall time of 1.02.8. The winner is a seasoned five year old, and was having his nineteenth race start.” I can’t believe a green horse having his third start, is capable of sectionals like that”, emailed Ken Boman. “I’ve got to go back to Black Caviar to find comparable splits. If he keeps improving, this horse has a very bright future.”
How did he ever start at $7.00, when he destroyed a Moe maiden field by six lengths, as recently as June 18th. Two and a half weeks later he cantered home in a BM 64 on the Hillside track, after which he was given a brief let up.
Then came the Caulfield race in which his sectionals triggered a minor sensation, and prompted trainer Sarah Zschoke to give him a crack at the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes down the Flemington straight, two weeks later. In front a stride from home, Eduardo was nabbed right on the line by the fast finishing I Am Excited.
In last Saturday’s Caulfield Sprint, he achieved the unusual feat of winning a Group 2 at only his fifth start. In the Gilgai Stakes and again at Caulfield, he really stretched his neck in the closing stages, and seems to have an instinct to win.
Eduardo is a nice, flowing name for commentators to enunciate, but most of them baulk when they see his trainer’s surname. Zschoke, is of German origin, and is pronounced “Shoker”.
Sarah has been a racing fanatic since early teen years, and it was no surprise when she became an apprentice jockey under the tutelage of the late Alan Stubbs at Longford. Sarah joined the chosen few to win first up, when she scored on Aristocrat Lady at Devonport in April 2000, and that success stands as testimony to her riding career. “Aristocrat Lady was my only winner in a riding career that lasted just twelve months”, recalled Sarah. “I don’t really know why I didn’t keep going. I just didn’t have the fire in the belly for race riding, which requires enormous commitment and discipline”.
Sarah continued to ride work for a considerable period, all the time thinking about becoming a trainer. She gained her trainer’s licence in 2012, after purchasing a tried horse from an advertisement on a bloodstock website. Her new acquisition was a chestnut mare called Alotta Gooditdidme, originally trained in Sydney by Kevin Moses and unplaced in three runs at Kembla Grange. “She wasn’t beaten very far in those three runs, and I thought it was good enough form to win a race or two in Tasmania”, reflected Sarah.
Her judgement was vindicated when the daughter of Strada placed first up, and then won a race at Devonport with Brendon McCoull up. The win whetted Sarah’s appetite for her new venture, and she made the momentous decision to move to Victoria, and give horse training a serious try.
The Tasmanian has been training out of the highly acclaimed Cranbourne centre for six years, and admits it’s been tough going. “I’ve only had a handful in work for all of that time, and have had to work part time for other trainers in the complex”, said Sarah.
She’s had enough winners to preserve her sanity, with horses like the curiously named Riddleofthesphinx (4 wins), but her life has changed dramatically since “that horse” walked into the yard. Eduardo was still in the paddock as an early four year old, and had it not been for an easy Maiden win at Racing.com Park by his half-sister watch Me Blush, he might still be in the paddock.
Part owner Nick Cresci had turned three of his horses out indefinitely, and was amazed to discover that Eduardo was four years old, and still unbroken. Had he been tried early, his natural brilliance would almost certainly have pointed to a two year old preparation.
The fact that he was spared that early pressure has probably moulded the horse we’re lauding today.
Sarah believes the fact that he was given so much time, has contributed to his beautiful nature. “I’ve never seen him with his ears back, and he wouldn’t know how to kick and bite”, said the trainer. “He spends all of his time in a large yard, and is never boxed. He’s a very happy horse”.
The fairy tale is completed by the contribution of Sarah’s partner Brian Park. He’s riding better than ever after an absence from the saddle of three and a half years. “Brian rides him most of his work, and knows the horse backwards”, said Sarah. “It’s so good to leg him on, and not have to explain the little quirks the horse has”.
She also acknowledges the support of apprentice Harry Grace who has worked Eduardo on occasions, and makes himself available whenever called upon.
Sarah Zschoke and Eduardo have come a long way in a short time. As we post this story, connections seem to be leaning towards an immediate spell, even though the temptation to give him an outing during the spring carnival must be making its presence felt.
From the breaker’s yard to a Gr 2 win on Caulfield Cup day is a fantastic journey. Trying to imagine what he might do next time is head spinning stuff.