A couple of astute judges came away from the Albury meeting on October 27th, convinced they’d seen a pretty promising four year old in action.
The horse in question was a big, raw chestnut gelding by the name of Noble Boy, who made very short work of thirteen others in an 1,175m Maiden.
With Irish apprentice Aaron Sweeney on board, Noble Boy was in commission at $4.20 following a barrier trial win at Moruya. He walked out of the gates and didn’t get a lot of room in the early stages - and boy does he need some room.
“There are taller horses around, but he’s as wide as an elephant”, said trainer Todd Blowes. “He’s got a massive neck, a massive chest and a huge rear end. He travels everywhere on my truck and barely fits between the partitions”.
Sweeney had to check off heels approaching the home turn, resulting in the big boy going ‘bush” on the bend. Admittedly there were no superstars in front of him, but he put them away in a few strides. “His acceleration was surprising, and we were all pretty excited”, recalled Todd.
Two weeks later he lined up in a Class 1 on the roomy Goulburn track, with Matthew Cahill in the saddle. Although he had only five rivals, Todd stressed to Matt the importance of giving the big, green horse ample space.
He travelled three wide to the turn, before losing his “rudder” on the turn, as he had at Albury. Once again he picked them up in a flash, and scored the softest of wins.
Going straight to a TAB Highway at Rosehill would normally have dimmed Todd’s confidence, but he was greatly cheered by Noble Boy’s work at Queanbeyan on the Tuesday morning. “My stable foreman Troy Tipping rode him work, and was wrapped in the gallop”, said Todd. “He went a pretty strong 800 metres, but his last 400 metres in 23.2 seconds was exceptional”.
His Rosehill Gardens win on Saturday, was a replica of his wins at Albury and Goulburn. Again “Hoffa”, as he’s known at home, dawdled out of the gates, and again he was off the track on the home turn. You can only imagine the surprise James McDonald got, when he dug the big gelding in the ribs at the 300 metres.
McDonald actually said he would have waited a bit longer, had he known just how quickly the horse could dash. He charged away to beat two handy Highway veterans in Coup De Main and I Am Capitan.
For thirty seven year old Todd Blowes, the experience was almost surreal.
He’s been training thoroughbreds for just one year, and Noble Boy’s three wins have been his only wins so far. “I’ve had ten or eleven runners in total, and to win a race in town so quickly is a dream come true”, he said.
Todd might be a freshman trainer, but he’s been riding horses since childhood. He spent a great deal of time as a youngster, on a Crookwell property owned by his late paternal grandfather Peter. “Grandfather was a terrific horseman, and was often asked to break horses in for neighbours and friends”, recalled Todd. “I would spend hours in the saddle mustering sheep and cattle with him, and I played a lot of polocrosse in those years”.
Todd has stables on Queanbeyan racecourse, where he breaks horses in and pre trains for clients. Despite his height of 183cm, he also rides some of his own trackwork.
There was a time when Rugby League was his primary interest. He had several good seasons with the Queanbeyan Blues United first grade team, but had to quit ten years ago with troublesome shoulders.
The Noble Boy adventure began when Todd learned that hobby breeder Donna Smart was looking for someone to try an unraced four year old she had on her property.
Todd went to inspect the son of Bon Hoffa, and liked what he saw. “He was an arrogant pig early in the piece, and very hard to get on with”, recalled the trainer. “He would strike when you least expected it, and you couldn’t drop your guard”.
The horse gradually came around and nowadays is an absolute gentleman around the stables. Todd had previously tried a sister to Noble Boy, but she never looked like “coming around”. Her temperament was such that Todd actually gave up on giving her an orthodox preparation.
Noble Boy is by the former talented racehorse Bon Hoffa, who won nine races for $700,000 including the group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes. He ran second in the same race the following year, and also boasts two wins in the Group 3 Bobbie Lewis Quality. He has sired an ever increasing list of consistent performers, and several of his progeny have won a large number of races.
Noble Boy’s dam, Dignity Lady, is a prime example of the theory that performance isn’t everything. This mare had forty four starts for just one unimpressive win in a Dubbo Maiden, but is away to a good start as a broodmare.
Todd is very satisfied with his decision to syndicate the powerful gelding, and the lucky quintet can look forward to some exciting times. Todd retained a share, and races Noble Boy with his foreman Troy Tipping, his farrier Gray Cocking, breeder Donna Smart and Jeremy Braun.
Enthusiastic supporters are Todd’s wife Christie, and his sons Ryan (11) and Ben (9). Ben was at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday to share with his father, the thrill of winning with the stable’s very first metropolitan starter.
Noble Boy is already in the paddock, where he’ll stay for around three weeks before being prepared for a very ambitious campaign. He’ll resume at Warwick Farm on Feb 9th, and that will be followed on March 3rd by the Country Championship qualifier at Goulburn, in which he needs to run first or second.
Every time I hear a story like this one, I’m reminded of something an old trainer told me many years ago. He said “racing is a business fraught with disappointment, interspersed by the odd pleasant surprise”.