Photo Courtesy of National Trotguide

Photo Courtesy of National Trotguide

Match In Heaven has always been a nice horse for owner/breeder John Starr, and trainer Paul Fitzpatrick. Nice enough to record 19 wins and 15 placings for $282,000 in prize money.

He was a late starter as a two year old, making his debut in April 2015, notching 3 wins and 2 seconds from his first 6 starts. He won a heat of the Breeder’s Challenge, then ran into the unstoppable Our Waikiki Beach in a semi final, going under by less than 4 metres. The New Zealand colt proved his nemesis again in the final, beating him by 4 metres.

The ever patient Paul Fitzpatrick opted for a long spell for the talented colt, and Match In Heaven wasn’t sighted again for almost seven months. He won 3 straight before missing a place in the NSW Derby heat, failing to qualify for the final.

He had to be content with a win in the Young Derby beating the smart Charlaval, after which he was “freshened” with the Breeder’s Challenge series looming. He made the Challenge final, but finished well back after a tough run.

“He just wasn’t going as well as expected at that stage”, recalled Paul Fitzpatrick.”We gave him a thorough veterinary examination and found absolutely no abnormalities, so we decided to head north for the Queensland Derby”.

He won a lead up race at Menangle, before finishing second to Catcha Lefty in the Derby, beaten only two and a half metres. He was going well enough to warrant a crack at the Breeder’s Crown, and three weeks later finished third to Rock Of America in a Ballarat heat, and followed that with a third to his old foe Our Waikiki Beach in a semi final at Bendigo. He started at long odds in the final at Melton, but ran a cracker of a race for second to the “Beach”, beaten only a neck.

He returned after a spell in January 2017 and won three races pretty quickly, but Paul was still expecting more. “ He lost his way over the next few months, and we decided to turn him out again at John Starr’s Hawkesbury Valley property” said the puzzled trainer.

Match In Heaven resumed in January of this year, and has been right on his game. “We had one small hiccup with bruising in a front foot, and we actually tried “flip flop” shoes for a while”, said Paul. “He just didn’t pace as well, so we reverted to regular shoeing, and he’s been fine ever since”.

The five year old stallion has raced generously right throughout the year, including a win at Menangle which gave him his best ever mile rate of 1.50.9. At his very next start he finished powerfully to win the Renshaw Cup at Penrith, and he hasn’t looked back since.

His two most recent wins have been exceptional, and on both occasions he has been driven like a true stayer. “He had such high speed as a two and three year old, that we never considered driving him any other way than sit sprint”, recalled the trainer.

Expatriate Kiwi Sean Grayling, now working for the Fitzpatrick stable, has driven Match In Heaven very positively in those last two wins. In The Joe and Michael Ilsley Cup on May 19th, he had the 1x1 in the back straight, but Grayling elected to take off when Composed made a quick move from the rear. He sat outside Bling It On to the turn before kicking clear, and holding off Aztec Bromac and Celestial Arden.

Last Saturday night young Sean didn’t get involved in the early scramble, which resulted in a staggering 24.6 lead time, the fastest ever recorded on the Menangle track. Match In Heaven was left in the death seat when Benicio “choked down” and galloped, and the horse he parked outside, was none other than the Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal. Match In Heaven had them covered all the way down the straight, and won by 2 metres, with a sizzling last quarter of 26.3.

The 5 year old stallion doesn’t even know he’s an entire, and has the perfect temperament around the stable. He’s only 15 hands, smaller than many of the progeny of the ill fated Somebeachsomewhere.

Paul is already planning to aim for the Inter Dominion Championship in December of this year- the first to be held in Melbourne in more than a decade. Fitzpatrick has been training horses for John Starr since the retirement of Brian Hancock, and they’ve enjoyed great success together with horses like Neptune’s Lady, Marquess De Posh, Redemption, Ocean Diva, Vincere and Place Of Glory.

Paul had a bad start to 2018 with a serious kidney disorder which hospitalised him twice. He’s had a long and frustrating rehabilitation, but is right back to normal, and I’m told that son Gavin is giving him plenty to do around the stable.

Match In Heaven’s recent resurgence has been both a surprise and relief to John Starr and Paul Fitzpatrick, who have had unwavering faith in the horse for a long time.

The little horse is in a great frame of mind at the moment.

Watch Match In Heaven beating a classy field at Menangle last Saturday night.