Racing: Reinsman on track for new career

By Michael Guerin

Cooney has much to ponder after presenting second-equal top colt of Karaka yearling sale.

Frank Cooney has been sidelined from racing since a shocking smash at Alexandra Park in July which left him in a coma. Photo / Christine Cornege
Frank Cooney has been sidelined from racing since a shocking smash at Alexandra Park in July which left him in a coma. Photo / Christine Cornege

After the year from hell, the sun shone on Frank Cooney at Karaka yesterday.

And it may have shown him the path to his new primary focus in harness racing.

Cooney has been sidelined from racing since a shocking smash at Alexandra Park in July which left him in a coma.

The popular West Auckland horseman hasn't driven in a race since and realises he may never again.

"I went to the doctor the other day and he has told me I am at least six months away from getting a clearance," Cooney told the Herald.

"And he also told me if I have another smash like that I could end up a vegetable.

"So I have a lot to weigh up.

"I want to drive again but I also want to see my grandkids grow up, and, on another level, it is not fair on my rivals for me to go back out on the track unless I am 100 per cent."

Cooney is back driving trackwork and admits he loves the buzz of being behind a good horse.

"But it is not like I am a 20-year old trying to start my career. I have had a good run and there are plenty of other good drivers I can put on out there so it is not my main priority."

What might become a bigger priority is breeding and selling horses, especially after Cooney's success at yesterday's Australasian Classic sale.

He sold the second-equal top colt of the sale with $120,000 paid for a Bettor's Delight half-brother to Five Star Anvil and Let's Elope. He also sold a $53,000 colt, helping boost the finances after a sapping past few months.

"That definitely helps because it has been a quiet time, as you would understand," said Cooney.

"I have always liked the breeding and we have had a bit of success here selling in the past so maybe I will expand that side of the business if the driving isn't to be."

The sale has continued the mixed trend of standardbred sales in recent years, with the same six or eight major buyers tending to hone in on the glamour family colts.

But of the big guns nobody had the ammunition of Sydney-based contractor Emilio Rosati, who bought Cooney's top lot as well as the overall sales topper.

He paid $210,000 for another Bettor's Delight colt from former star filly Lauraella, from one of New Zealand's most successful sales' families, that of Black Watch.

Rosati is best known for his army of horses with Stride in their names, including next week's Interdominion finalist Excel Stride.

Rosati has become a worldwide force in harness racing, buying extensively in New Zealand, Australia and North America. He was the leading light of a strong Australian buying bench, with most of the big-name local trainers being prominent without anybody taking home a float-load of high-priced babies.

With the exchange rate and the huge stakes on offer in Sydney and Perth many local trainers couldn't compete with their Australian counterparts and seemed happy to wait until the Christchurch sales tomorrow and Thursday.

As expected, Bettor's Delight was the dominant force among the stallion ranks as buyers finally caught up with the fact that while his yearlings are often not pretty, their results on the track are.

•Heart Stealer lived up to her name once Central Otago horseman Geoff Knight took her out of her box.

The daughter of Bettor's Delight and Fight Fire With Fire was always going to be a popular lot after her half-brother fetched the top price of $250,000 at last year's sale.

After a battle with underbidder Mark Purdon, who trained Fight Fire With Fire to seven wins, Bill Bain, of Roxburgh, and Doug Gollan, of Gore, now own the filly who will be in the hands of Knight for her racing career. Bain is a part-owner of group one winner Pembrook's Delight.

Knight said the southern trio, who paid $95,000 for the Croon Bloodstock offering, had gone shopping for a good-quality filly, and their mind was made up once they inspected her yesterday morning.

"When we took them all out of the boxes, this was the one that stood out, really," Knight said.

Facts and figures

*The average for the sales was up slightly on last season, at $29,786 compared with $29,454.
*The passed-in rated was higher though, with nearly 28 per cent of lots not sold.
*The top price was $210,000 for a colt and $95,000 for a filly.
*Australian buyers were dominant, headed by Sydney's Emilio Rosati.
*The sale grossed $3,693,500.

-Additional reporting Matt Smith

- NZ Herald

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