By Michael Guerin
For the little pacer who can Copy That the winning isn’t the hard part.
He proved that again in the $1million Race by Grins at Cambridge on Friday night as he led and raced away from Old Town Road to record a paint by numbers victory in New Zealand’s richest harness race.
Nothing new in that, Copy That was always going to be the horse to beat after drawing to find his favoured pacemaking role, his little legs spinning in a happy rhythm being when he is most potent.
That is how he has won two New Zealand Cups, a Ballarat Cup and a host of other good races.
He could even be termed a flat track bully if it wasn’t for a series of stunning national-record wins off humongous handicaps in the spring. Copy That isn’t a bully, he is just faster than most of his rivals and the fastest horses often end up in front.
So now he nears $2million in career stakes, a crazy return for a pony who cost just $7000 as a baby. He is not very big now, you can only guess how small he was then.
But what happened at Cambridge on Friday night and in those New Zealand Cups isn’t the real story of Copy That.
The real story is a little horse who has overcome more than most horses will ever be asked to overcome.
There was the fractured leg in Victoria 17 months ago, which came with box confinement and a loss of all fitness.
For a stallion, particularly one who likes to let the girls know when he is about, that could easily have led to sulking, to a bad attitude. It can turn a horse sour. Not Copy That. He seems happiest racing and he returned from his potentially-careering ending injury almost oddly improved.
Then there are the internal bleeds, two of them in Victoria, one not officially recorded it was so minor but the one after the Hunter Cup two months ago was.
Internal bleeds from exertion don’t hurt horses but that can’t do a lot of their confidence.
Still, little Copy That, runs headlong in battle, him against his rivals and the odds.
Last night as he returned to the stables in the hands of driver Blair Orange the huge Cambridge crowd cheered, the clerk of the course leading the victor down the straight waving the Silver Fern flag.
How far it must have felt from those long, boring days confined to a stable in the Victorian heat healing.
But Copy That isn’t finished. He will be back doing what he loves at Alexandra Park for a Taylor Mile, Messenger and eventually the Auckland Cup over the next six weeks.
He almost certainly won’t clean sweep them. He is not that level of champion and there was enough to like about Old Town Road, Self Assured and even visiting Australian pacer Better Eclipse to say one of them will get his measure.
Safely through all that though his 76-year-old trainer Ray Green, who himself was seriously injured in November when kicked by a horse, losing 14kgs in hospital, wants to take Copy That back to Australia.
The Queensland winter carnival beckons and Green wants to show the Aussies the real Copy That, the star who has not shone as brightly across the Tasman.
Copy That will be up for the fight, he always is. So will Green.
Because as they proved again at Cambridge on Friday night, they don’t give up, they show up.