Racing: Collapse in the calf pen then big win at Ellerslie

By Mike Dillon

john Gray (closest to camera). Photo / Trish Dunell
john Gray (closest to camera). Photo / Trish Dunell

The weekend started out badly for Thames Valley farmer Roger Brownlee.

Late on Friday, Brownlee found his wife unconscious in the calf pen of their farm.

"We spent half the night in Thames Hospital," he said. "As best doctors could tell, my wife had been unconscious for half an hour with chronically low blood pressure. She was 80 over 40 and unresponsive."

Even with the health problem stabilised, Roger Brownlee got little sleep on Friday night and he wasn't looking forward to driving to Ellerslie when he believed his veteran galloper John Gray had finally tapped the mat on his long career and would probably fail again in the $30,000 Bidvest 1600.

"We thought he might go okay last start at Rotorua but he beat only two home and I thought privately it might be the right moment to call time on his racing career."

That would have not been surprising - going into Saturday at Ellerslie, John Gray - rising 12 - had been to the races 99 times for 13 wins, 16 seconds and 17 thirds.

As if he knew more was expected of him for his 100th start and a big run was needed for the family, John Gray turned in one of those typically you-won't-beat-me performances to outlast Celebrity Miss and Seconds Out in a tough knock-down three-way finish.

"When he's right he just doesn't know how to give in," said Brownlee in admiration.

John Gray's rider was Sam Collett, who got a thrill on two levels.

"What a great old horse and it was special because Mum [Trudy Thornton] rode the second horse. I don't often beat Mum in a tight finish, but I got her this time."

Trainer Anthony Fuller said provided John Gray comes out of this race in great shape, he will back in this week's $40,000 Cornwall Handicap at Ellerslie.

That's $314,720 and still going.

- NZ Herald

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