SATURDAY: November 20, 2021: THE trials and tribulations of winning a race!
Hawkesbury hobby trainer Wayne Attard knows all about it – and understandably was emotional when his eight-year-old mare Meale (named after his late aunty Amelia) broke through at Orange yesterday at $21 when having her 11th start.
Ridden by Mitchell Bell, Meale made her own luck up front and gamely held out another Hawkesbury representative, Tommy Wong’s Speedy Song ($31), to land the Maiden Handicap (1600m).
Attard purchased the daughter of Duporth for $20,000 at the 2015 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale Summer Book and when she was broken in at Randwick and showed immediate ability, he thought he had a sure-fire winner.
Then the problems began.
“Meale broke a sesamoid bone in a gallop at Hawkesbury one morning and didn’t race as a two-year-old,” Attard said.
“Then late in her three-year-old season, she broke her pelvis in a stable accident.
“I was renting boxes at the time, and another trainer brought in a stallion who was stabled opposite to her.
“She got stirred up, and flipped over in her box during the night.
“As a result, she virtually needed 24-hour care for many months and then my friend and co-owner Ronnie Fairclough looked after her at his facility at Murrumbateman in the Southern Highlands, stabling her at night.”
Meale didn’t begin her racing career until well into her four-year-old season, finishing 26 lengths last of eight in an 1100m Maiden on her home track in March, 2018.
She was suspended by stewards because of a “poor performance”, but subsequently reinstated 10 days later after trialling at Rosehill Gardens.
Meale at her next start four months later finished third over 1300m at Hawkesbury, then failed to finish, again on her home track, in a 1500m Maiden on August 2 that year at the start of her five-year-old season.
Another suspension was imposed by stewards, and once more she was reinstated after trialling at Muswellbrook three days later.
Meale had five more starts, which included a second over 1400m at Nowra on January 14, 2019, before failing at Wyong 13 days later.
She bled from one nostril that day – and it very easily could have signalled the end of her career on the track.
Attard blamed himself for starting her. “It was a very hot day around 35 degrees, and she was in blinkers for the first time and drew the outside in a field of 11 in a 1600m Maiden Plate,” he said.
“As a result of her bleed, she incurred the mandatory ban and I turned her out.”
Fast forward to six months ago when Attard fielded a phone call from jockey Robbie Brewer, who has ridden Meale in much of her trackwork.
“Robbie asked me what I was going to do with the mare,” he said. “She had been out in the paddock for more than two years and I hadn’t worried about giving her another preparation because I was so busy with work commitments and the virus (COVID-19) had struck.
“But after Robbie’s call, I decided to bring her back into the stable.
“We put a lot of foundation work into her, and yesterday’s race at Orange was her third after her long break.
“Whilst she was going from an 1100m Maiden at Hawkesbury on November 4 to the 1600m, I knew she was ready to handle it, especially going back to country class.
“Given all we have been through, it was a tremendous thrill to see her come back and win and it was very emotional.
“I gave her plenty of time to recover before we left Orange and returned home, and she has pulled up well.”
Attard is very appreciative of the assistance he has been given by jockeys Robbie Brewer and Jeff Penza.
“They have been a terrific help to me,” he said. “When Robbie can’t ride her work, Jeff jumps in.
“I could not have been able to do this without them.
“And I am also very grateful for the contribution and advice given by my good friend Jason Patrick.”
Most trainers would not have persevered with an eight-year-old mare given the multitude of problems Meale has encountered – but not Attard.
“We could nearly have bought Winx as a yearling considering the amount of money we have spent on Meale,” Attard said.
“But it’s all about the love of the animal – and we love her.”
HOOFNOTE: Attard is considering attempting an even bigger feat with Meale’s stablemate I’m No Phony, who is 11 years of age and hasn’t raced since July 2017, having scored at Bathurst a few weeks earlier.
“He is in work, and I’m thinking about racing him again,” he said.