Paul Cave’s broad brimmed hat partly concealed the look of relief on his face when Spanish Dream won the last race at Rosehill Gardens. The mare owed him that one.
The daughter of Lope De Vega (Ire) had always been a trifle touchy, but managed to win her Maiden first up at Gosford on 11/1/2018 with Rachel Hunt on board. She had seven winless runs and two fairly lengthy spells before she won another one. It was ten months later, again on the Gosford track, with Blake Spriggs doing the honours.
Spanish Dream’s attitude became increasingly testy over the next few weeks. By the time she got to Wyong for her next assignment on 19/12/2018 the then four year old was less than cooperative.
Despite being difficult to saddle she kept herself together well enough to win a BM 70 by nearly three lengths. The ease of that win prompted Paul to give her a shot at a metro race before her preparation ended.
Nobody expected the fireworks Spanish Dream produced in the Randwick race day stalls two weeks later. “She went absolutely berserk kicking out behind and stomping with her front feet”, recalled the trainer. “She kicked and stomped with such force that she got all four shoes off. The farrier couldn’t get a single shoe back on and we had to declare her a late scratching”.
Paul regrets his decision to have one last crack at a metro win. “Back to Randwick we go and this time it was even worse”, said Cave. “She threw herself over backwards and actually fractured her wither. She had to go out for a very long spell”.
Charlie Brister is Paul Cave’s stepson. He’s a master exponent of the three day eventing pursuit and is a naturally gifted horse breaker. He currently breaks any young horses that come through the Cave stable.
“When Spanish Dream came back into work I enlisted Charlie’s assistance in an attempt to sort her out”, said Paul. “On several occasions we took her to the races, but didn’t start her. After trackwork we’d unsaddle, hose her down and just leave her in the stall. Later we’d saddle up and ride her home. We needed to stop her associating the stalls with having to go flat out”.
The tactics are working effectively. She’s had three runs this preparation and hasn’t put a foot wrong so far. “Mind you your heart’s in your mouth every second”, Paul admits. “Sometimes you can see a touch of fire in her eye and you know it wouldn’t take much to set her off. So far, so good”.
The trainer gives Kathy O’Hara much of the credit for the mare’s turnaround. “Kathy’s a great horse person and has gone out of her way to help with our problem girl”, said Paul.
Spanish Dream’s dam Daybreak Express was untried. “She always had a hind end problem and the decision was made early to send her to the well-credentialed Lope De Vega (Ire)”, explained Paul. “Daybreak Express was a half-sister to Pasta Express, one of the best horses I’ve trained”.
For the record Pasta Express won the Gr 2 Chelmsford Stakes, the Gr 2 Hill Stakes, was second in the Gr 1 Metropolitan, and was placed in three other Group 2 and Group 3 races. Spanish Dream has won up to 1350m and might stretch out to a mile later.
Paul Cave, a native of County Cork has been around horses all his life. He had a thorough grounding in Flat and National Hunt Racing and harboured a desire to train thoroughbreds commercially. He fell in love with the Australian racing industry on his first trip to these shores in the early 1970’s.
His training career began in Sydney forty four years ago. He’s been a small team trainer, possessed of great patience and with a definite liking for staying horses. He enjoys nothing more than riding a hack alongside a highly strung horse. He’s happy to trot for miles trying to get that horse to relax.
For many years Paul had the luxury of the vacant acres and riding trails at Warwick Farm, but the vast Inglis complex has swallowed up that valuable facility. Nowadays the lanky Irishman spends countless hours riding out with anxious horses on his 200 acre property at Mulgoa.
Paul and Martha Cave spend most of their time at Mulgoa, but retain Curragh Lodge, the trainer’s long time Warwick Farm base. The couple have a twelve year old son Toller who actually attends school at Mulgoa.
I was surprised when Paul confessed that Mingling Glances was his all-time favourite. The attractive daughter of Yeats won seven and placed five times for $223,000. She put together a dazzling sequence of four straight in the spring of 1993, the last three in Listed races at Caulfield, Moonee Valley and Flemington. Rodney Quinn rode her in six of her wins.
Mingling Glances was raced in Japanese interests and her success led Paul to an association with Mr T Namba and the Australian Bloodhorse Club of Tokyo. That syndicate raced Seto Bridge whose five wins included a Gr 2 Newcastle Cup, and a Gr 2 SA St Leger. They also raced Seto Flowerian who won a Gr 3 Adrian Knox stakes and was runner up in the AJC Oaks. Both horses were by Bellotto and won $487,000 between them.
The stout staying mare Lahar gave her trainer some indescribable thrills, and furthered his reputation as a trainer of stayers. The daughter of Kenmare was a slow maturer and started to show her best form at four.
She finished third in a Sydney Cup, second in a Doomben Cup, fourth in a Brisbane Cup and dead heated for third in the Melbourne Cup of 1999 won by Rogan Josh. “You couldn’t believe a dead heat for third could be such a buzz”, recalled the veteran trainer. “Just to figure in the finish of that race was an unforgettable experience”.
Paul got the Zabeel gelding Respect to win twice over 3200 metres - the 2006 Queensland Cup with the late Stathi Katsidis aboard and the 2007 Perth Cup with Jason Whiting in the saddle.
The Free Stater showed tremendous promise before going amiss after just 17 runs. He won seven races with two placings for $324,000. He won the Gr 3 Liverpool City Cup, the Gr 3 Frederick Clissold Hcp and the listed Hawkesbury Guineas.
Conair won a Gr 2 QTC Grand Prix Stakes, German Chocolate snared a Gr 3 Missile Stakes and a Gr 2 Premiere Stakes and then there’s Greenmailer. The latter started at $51.00 in winning the Gr 3 Kingston Town Stakes as a maiden - it was in fact his only win.
At 70 years of age Paul Cave is as passionate as ever about horses and waits patiently for that special horse to walk through the gates of Curragh Lodge. When it does he’ll know exactly what to do with it.
In the meantime his primary objective is to stay one jump ahead of Spanish Dream.
(Banner image courtesy Bradley Photographers - Kathy O'Hara wins on Red Viking for the Cave stable at Wyong in 2017.)