Darryl Hansen’s spirits soared when the shock announcement of Zoustyle’s late scratching from the Gold Coast Guineas boomed over the public address system.
Trainer Tony Gollan didn’t hesitate to withdraw his unbeaten gelding from the Group 3 event when the track was downgraded to a heavy 10.
Darryl’s filly Pennino had already posted a heavy 8 win at Doomben this time last year and had handled soft ground on a few other occasions.
The trainer also knew she had derived great benefit from an unplaced first up effort behind Plague Stone in the Mick Dittman Plate two weeks earlier.
Matt McGillivray would probably have preferred to take a sit in the Guineas, but the filly jumped straight onto the bridle and there was little point in breaking her rhythm.
Although “pestered” by Boomsara and Poet’s Landing all the way to the turn, Pennino was always travelling well within herself and looked the one to beat on straightening.
Revelling in the going, she safely held Defence Missile and Million to make it four wins from thirteen starts. McGillivray was thrilled to win the Guineas after having been placed on the filly at Group 3 and Listed level.
For Darryl Hansen it was an exciting return to the scene of his greatest training triumph - the 2015 Magic Millions 2YO Classic with Le Chef. “Nothing compares with that one, but it was lovely to win a Group 3 with this sweetheart of a filly”, said Darryl over the weekend. “She’s sensible, very professional in everything she does and doesn’t have a single quirk”.
Darryl is mindful of the fact that Pennino has had two runs this preparation on very heavy tracks. “She’s not the most robust filly in the world and won’t need a great deal of work before her next assignment”, said the trainer. “All being well her next race will be the Fred Best 3YO Classic on May 18th”.
If genetics count for anything Darryl Hansen was always at short odds to become a horse trainer. His father Roy was a noted horsebreaker whose services were sought by station owners as far afield as Hughenden and Julia Creek. “He was just as much at home on a show jumper or an ill-tempered bronco”, said Darryl.
The trainer’s grandfather Albert was also a master horseman, with a great love of thoroughbreds. “It was Albert and my grandmother Alma who introduced me to the Cluden Park races in Townsville when I was four or five years old”, recalled Darryl. “There’s no doubt the seed was planted on my very first day at the track”.
During school years the aspiring horseman helped out at the stables of Jim Dixon and later worked full time for the experienced trainer, but a job in the “real world” became inevitable.
Darryl landed a job with the Australian Meat Handling Association’s Townsville division, where he performed all of the duties a professional butcher would undertake. He was one of the team who prepared a variety of meats for export.
A few years later he felt the need for a change and was able to arrange a transfer to the Rockhampton division of the Meat Handling Association. It was around this time that Darryl and a few friends started to buy the odd tried horse.
With the support of his workplace foreman John Welfare, he secured a “cheapie” from a client of Kembla Grange trainer Stephen Hill. The horse was called Tommy Buoy and he was a maiden after six starts although he had finished a distant second in one of them.
Darryl gave the gelding a long spell before producing him at Callaghan Park where he won three of his first five starts. “He had little luck in the other two and maybe it should have been five from five”, recalled the trainer.
Tommy Buoy never recaptured that form, but his job was done and Darryl remembers him fondly as the horse to kick start his training career. That was 500 wins ago with several very smart horses passing through his hands.
In 2010 Darryl, completely hooked on this racing life, made the move to the Sunshine Coast. To commemorate this all important move stable client Marino Katsanevas decided to buy his trainer the most expensive horse he’d ever put a bridle on.
The horse was called Essington, a son of Redoute’s Choice from a mare by Encosta De Lago. The seller was Lloyd Williams and the price tag was $50,000. The gelding had registered one second placing in a Ballarat maiden, from just four starts.
Darryl gave Essington a lengthy spell and then brought him up slowly for a preparation destined to make him the bargain of the decade. He won six of his first seven and nine of his first fourteen starts, which included two races at Listed level.
He wasn’t able to win again, but ran a few placings, including seconds in the Listed races, the Brisbane Hcp and Bernborough Hcp. He retired with earnings of $350,000, seven times his purchase price.
Darryl has added a few more names to his list of favourites in recent years. He fondly remembers Luxford, who was the veteran of more than forty starts when stable clients purchased him from Victoria. He won two at Rockhampton, one at Doomben and the Esk Cup before his retirement.
The trainer only had Vo Heart for a short time, but long enough to win an Open 2YO at Doomben and the Gr 2 Champagne Classic at Eagle Farm.
When Jason McLachlan relinquished his trainer’s licence three years ago, he was instrumental in several horses being transferred to Darryl’s Sunshine Coast operation. One of them, Monsieur Gustave has since won eight races including The Eye Liner (Listed), The Glasshouse Quality (Listed), The Keith Noud (Listed), and The George Moore (Group 3). “He’s a funny old horse”, exclaimed Darryl. “He’s a six year old and still gets a touch of shin soreness from time to time”.
Another new recruit from the McLachlan yard was Balboa Rocks, unreliable but talented as he proved when he came from last to win the Sunshine Coast Cup.
There was a yearling full sister to Balboa Rocks in the consignment - none other than Pennino who took her earnings to $413,000 in winning the Gold Coast Guineas on Saturday. “There’s another rising two year old full relation to go into serious work shortly”, said Darryl. “Could we be so lucky all over again”.
Darryl is driven by an inherent love of the horse and the memories of his day of days - that unforgettable feeling when Le Chef and Luke Tarrant combined to win the Magic Millions 2YO Classic. Now a six year old Le Chef has been plagued with knee chips and has undergone two surgical procedures.
Despite his problems, the son of Exceed And Excel has strung together the impressive record of seven wins and five placings for more than $1.2 million in prize money. He’s been a source of great joy for his owner, Mt. Isa businesswoman Lenore Saunders.
Le Chef is currently being trained by Jay Morris at Mt. Isa, and won a race recently at Cloncurry. Magic Millions winners are pretty rare at Cloncurry, and he drew plenty of stares on the day.
Luke Tarrant continues to ride work for Darryl at the Sunshine Coast and will be seen on some of the stable runners going ahead. Tiffani Brooker also helps out with trackwork duties and is getting close to her comeback ride. “Tiffani has had major back problems, but seems to be getting on top of them”, reports Darryl. “She’s a very gifted rider and will get plenty of support from local trainers”.
Darryl Hansen has around thirty horses in work including pre trainers. He has tremendous support from partner Amy and youngest daughter Georgie (17). Another daughter Candice is in Melbourne where she has just completed a University degree.
Darryl’s got the right team, the right location and almost thirty years of experience under his belt. If the right horses walk into his Caloundra barn, they’ll be winning.