Racing: Southern invaders on way

By Michael Guerin

Win, lose or draw, Franco Ledger's support crew are preparing to paint Auckland red.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

There was a time when Southland horses coming to Alexandra Park were to be feared.

That may not be the case with Franco Ledger in tomorrow night's Auckland Trotting Cup but it still rings true about his owners.

Southland's best pacer will be a long-shot chance in the $250,000 Cup, not the worst pacer in the race but definitely not the best.

That honour lies with another son of Southland, Themightyquinn, who looks likely to start favourite in the group one over the 2700m mobile.

Southlanders trekking north to Auckland and pillaging are rarities these days, with names like Young Quinn and Sapling long since confined to the record books.

Of course the greatest Alexandra Park hero of them all, Cardigan Bay, was Southland-bred, while in recent years Howard Bromac flew the flag for the proud harness racing province, winning the Auckland Cup in 2005.

These days Franco Ledger is the pride of Southland and managing owner Brendan McIntyre says that in itself is an honour.

"It is quite humbling for us to have the best pacer in Southland," said McIntyre, manager of the 10-strong What Ever Syndicate.

"So many great horses have come from down home and the support we get when we go away to big races is amazing.

"Everybody at the pub wants to know about how the trips go and we get swamped with good luck calls and texts."

McIntyre realises Franco Ledger probably can't win this Cup but that is almost irrelevant. "Sure, we might be making up the numbers a little bit, especially against a horse like Themightyquinn.

"Like everybody else I was watching him win the Inter last Sunday and was just blown away.

"But to think now we are off to Auckland to take him on is awesome.

"It is like when you play sport. You want to play at the highest level you can."

And this sports teams comes with plenty of cheerleaders, with at least 20 from Franco Ledger's wider ownership group heading north.

Which is a very good thing for the Auckland economy. Because the What Ever Syndicate adopt the attitude of celebrating their defeats as enthusiastically as their victories.

Well, almost as enthusiastically.

There was that little incident at the start of last year when Franco Ledger won the Central Otago Cup at Omakau - it took some of his owners a couple of days to get home.

"We were drinking out of the Central Otago Cup at the Clyde Cafe at 10 the next morning," says McIntyre, like everybody knows where that is.

This time it will take the crew a few days to get to Auckland.

"Our syndicate has our new baby, Pay Me Mach, starting at Forbury on Thursday night so a few of us are going there on the way to Auckland.

"And regardless of what happens we will have a hell of a time this weekend.

"For us this is all a bonus and for some of the owners this is life-changing stuff. We paid $37,000 for him as a yearling and while hehas won over $200,000 he is more like winning Lotto to us because of the experiences and fun we are having.

"If it was about the money we would have sold him when he was a 2-year-old. But he is like another kid to some of the owners."

And Franco Ledger is no lost cause, having won three open-class races this season and finishing a brave fourth in the City Of Auckland Free-For-All last Friday.

"He needs them to go hard and he will be hitting the line," says McIntyre.

"But like any Southlanders coming to Auckland, we will give it our best shot."

On and off the track.

- NZ Herald

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