Racing fans the world over, love the old “warrior geldings” who keep delivering long after their contemporaries have disappeared.
Best example in Sydney is the ageless Who Shot The Barman, who recently snatched a last stride victory in the Sydney Cup, at his fifth attempt in the historic race. Winx won her 25th straight on the same day, but the crowd reaction she triggered, was almost matched by the one accorded the 9 year old stayer.
Only last Saturday another 9 year old Destiny's Kiss thrilled the crowd when he stormed home to win the Listed WJ McKell Cup at Randwick.
Over in sunny California 10 year old Soi Phet got a similar reception when he won the Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita on May 20th. The race was for California breds only, and represented a class drop on the Gr 2 Californian Stakes in which Soi Phet had been unplaced three weeks earlier. Having said that, one of his rivals was Ashleyluvssugar who has won 5 Gr 2 races.
My correspondent is Michael Wrona who travelled to California with me way back in 1990, to share guest race calling duties at the now defunct Hollywood Park. Michael never returned to his native Queensland. He has called races at many US venues, with a long stint at Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco.
When long time Santa Anita commentator Trevor Denman resigned in 2016, Michael was selected from a long list of applicants, to take over as course announcer at the famous racetrack.
Michael told me he sensed the crowd reaction, as Soi Phet, with his trademark white nose roll, dived between horses to win the Crystal Water, with Alonso Quinonez in the saddle.The ten year old’s popularity was substantiated by a stream of comments on social media.
With only moderate form to his credit, Soi Phet turned up in a conditioned claiming race at Hollywood Park in 2013, and there was one man there on the day, who was determined to get him.
There was something about the then 5 year old that had taken the fancy of trainer Leonard Powell, who put in his claim at $16,000, and to his delight was able to take the horse home.
Soi Phet won his next four races straight in restricted company, before “lifting” for a third placing in the Gr 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.
Since that fateful claiming day, Soi Phet has turned his $16,000 price tag into a whopping $854,170, for his owners Benowitz Family Trust, Mathilde Powell(wife of the trainer), and Paul Viskovich.
The Crystal Water is named after the winner of the 1977 Californian Stakes. Other famous names on the honour roll are Swaps(1955), Affirmed(1979), Spectacular Bid(1980) and Sunday Silence(1990).
Soi Phet’s Group 1 career is vastly inferior to that of Who Shot The Barman, but he enjoys similar status to the Australian horse in California. Watch the replay of the Crystal Water, and note the excitement in Michael Wrona’s voice.