Racing: Young stars fade away

By Michael Guerin

Cowgirls N Indians (outer) may be retired to the broodmares' paddock. Photo / Thinkstock
Cowgirls N Indians (outer) may be retired to the broodmares' paddock. Photo / Thinkstock

On a A$500,000 afternoon last August the world seemed full of promise with three of New Zealand racing's brightest young stars.

Less than a year later nobody could have dreamed - or should that be manufactured a nightmare - of how badly the next 10 months could go.

At Melton, just outside Melbourne, one sunny Sunday day last season the New Zealand-trained trio of Paramount Geegee, his stablemate Flying Isa and exceptional filly Cowgirls N Indians all won their finals of the rich Australasian Breeders Crown.

Two months earlier, they had also won their respective divisions of the Harness Jewels and all three had won their categories at the New Zealand Horse of the Year awards.

They had the world at their hooves, their earning potential in the millions.

Now one is dead, another almost certainly retired and another has written off this season as a disaster.

The worst of the three nightmares belongs to Paramount Geegee.

He rewrote the record books for a young trotter's stake earnings in this part of the world but a leg problem led to an operation, resulting in an infection which led to him being found dead in a paddock at trainer John Dickie's Cambridge property.

After a season in which he mixed taking on the open-class trotters with rare opportunities against his own age group, he won just one race.

Remarkably, that is one more than Cowgirls N Indians and Flying Isa have managed to win since they ended last season on top of the harness racing world.

Cowgirls N Indians was the bravest of the trio with her dramatic victory at the ABC last August but was sore the next day.

That leg problem saw her miss most of her 3-year-old season but trainer Ian Small had one goal left, a return to the Breeders Crown this winter.

That dream is now over, as is almost certainly her career.

"She has developed a couple of other leg issues so her winter campaign is off," said Small.

"And to be honest, she might never race again.

"She has won the two biggest juvenile races a filly can, the Breeders Crown and the Jewels and been Filly of the Year.

"So if she is going to have issues she might as well be a broodmare because she is worth so much.

"That is up to her owners but it wouldn't surprise me if they retired her."

Flying Isa's season has been just two expensive, unplaced starts after Dickie had earlier expected him to eclipse even the performances of Paramount Geegee at the same age.

He was trialling brilliantly in January but then he also suffered a leg injury, forcing him to miss the meaty part of the season.

He returned to training briefly and unsuccessfully this winter.

"We were aiming him at Aussie again but he wasn't quite right and he needed an operation to remove some bone chips," said Dickie.

"So he will have a good break now and we will start again."

Dickie would be justified in feeling gutted as his season of promise turned dark but the loss of Paramount Geegee taught him a lesson.

"He [Flying Isa] might have had a bad season with problems but at least we have still got the horse, which is the main thing. Unlike the other fella," he told the Herald.

Meanwhile, the machine that is racing marches on.

A host of new Kiwi stars, horses who were unheard of when the now unlucky trio dominated Melton last August, will fly the New Zealand flag there on Friday night.

Star juveniles Border Control and Major Star clash in a Vicbred semifinal, dual group one winner Twist And Twirl makes her Australian debut.

And as they do battle with Australia's best this winter, few, if any, of those watching will spare a thought for the connections of Paramount Geegee, Flying Isa or Cowgirls N Indians.

Racing, like time, waits for no man. Or horse.

- NZ Herald

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