Party time for Viadana's gang at Ellerslie

BARRY LICHTER
Last updated 19:12 02/12/2012
Mark du Plessis and Viadana
GRAHAME COX/Fairfax NZ
ON THE RISE: Jockey Mark Du Plessis guides Viadana to win the Eagle Technology Stakes.

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The interloper who performed a haka in front of the Ellerslie crowd after Viadana's win in the $70,000 Eagle Technology Stakes wasn't one of the mare's owners - but his act was right in keeping with their fun-loving ways.

None of the happy throng who make up the Easdon No 4 racing syndicate seemed perturbed that a man in a dress stole their limelight for a few seconds after the Group II feature.

For as syndicator Leigh Noble explained, that's what they're in it for - to have a load of fun with their mates.

Noble, wife of trainer Lance Noble, said of the dozen or so syndicates which the stable has set up in recent years, none party as long and as hard.

"There are a lot of real characters in this group - many of them are locals from Matamata - and they've developed their own fan club.

"Some are retired and this has given them a chance to have fun with their friends. They're up there today with a table in the chairmans' room." Few groups of owners would have enjoyed so many parties on big race days - Viadana has already saluted the judge on traditional days out like Melbourne Cup day at Ellerslie, Telegraph Handicap day at Trentham, Boxing Day at Ellerslie and Matamata Breeders' Stakes day.

"There are 10 shares but looking at this lot I reckon it keeps growing with each win," Lance Noble said.

And now that Viadana has matured, Lance Noble predicts the partygoers are poised for even more fun times when it matters.

"The owners have been wonderfully patient. She was really weak and immature as a three-year-old, we knew she had ability last year but just nurtured her, not wanting to get too big too quick.

"But this year she's really matured and there are a lot of nice miles over Christmas-New Year that we can now have a go at." Noble said winning yesterday's Group III feature was a real buzz but he hopes she can boost her pedigree claims even further.

"She has tactical speed and can sprint again which is a huge asset." Viadana was bought for just $30,000 as a yearling, and syndicated by his wife in a programme which he says is now a big part of their business.

She is the second horse the syndicate has raced - their first, modest $10,000 buy Sirrio, won on debut, ran sixth in the 2010 Karaka Million, then was sold to Hong Kong.

Just one race later Noble was at it again, scoring with Brave Centaur, as his blossoming stable bagged its 17th win of the season to rank him seventh on the trainers' premiership.

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TRAINERS Donna and Dean Logan rolled out the red carpet yesterday - but it wasn't at Ellerslie - and it wasn't for their unbeaten filly Habibi.

The Ruakaka trainers put family first, staying in the north to set up an Oscars themed night for their daughter Samantha, determined that her 21st birthday would not go the way of all her others, victim to raceday duties.

But when Habibi overcame an early slip and showed real grit to outfinish Spinning Dancer in the Trevor Eagle Memorial Three-Year-Old they had an experienced MC on hand at Ellerslie anyway.

Among the owners of the Ekraar filly is Heather Crofskey, who as Heather Eggleton spent years handing out the prizes with Selwyn Toogood on the long-running TV hit It's In The Bag.

Yesterday Crofskey, and her New Plymouth partner in Habibi, Pam McIntyre, didn't have to choose the money or the bag as Auckland Racing Club officials handed out the spoils.

But according to Donna Logan, Habibi is so tough and talented, it won't be long before the big money offers surface.

Logan, taking a break from her birthday preparations, which had guests arrive in cadillacs and old hot rods, alight on a red carpet in front of paparazzi, and dine on crayfish in a Hollywood-style banquet, said Habibi was the horse she wished her owners had 15 years ago.

"The first one they gave me was no good and they said they really appreciated my telling them that. They said they'd give me a good one some day - and this is it.

"Given what happened today I thought she'd be lucky to run a place.

"She slipped badly coming out of the gates and went sideways. And when she didn't look comfortable after that I was hoping she hadn't done herself any harm.

"She looked awkward coming round the turn and was never travelling but she's very determined, and just pins her ears back.

"Even in her work she fights to get her head in front of the other horse.

"She's a real tough b---h. She has an attitude and will kick your head in before she asks for any favours." Logan said the filly out of the Danasinga mare Danny Holiday, would now be set for the Eight Carat Classic on Boxing Day, and the Great Northern Guineas.

Ultimately, being bred to stay, she would be suited by races like the New Zealand Oaks and New Zealand Derby.

By hokey, our bag lady is in for some fun. FUTURE KING has exercised the minds of the best vets in the world - and he continues to put his trainer Roger James "through hell and back". For while the showy four-year-old looked like a worldbeater at Ellerslie yesterday, turning on an explosive burst of speed to put his rating 65 rivals away in a few strides, he has a debilitating problem which no-one can diagnose.

And James wasn't looking forward to inspecting the horse this morning, fearing he will again be lame.

"The day after he last raced he was stressed and panting in his box. He had one leg off the ground and couldn't even put his toe down.

"We threw everything at him and within a day he was lame in the other leg.

"That's why he was so distressed - both legs were sore but he had to stand on one." James said Future King's problem surfaced within half an hour of his run at Te Rapa, when he ran up to win before finishing second.

But it was no isolated incident. Future King had the same issue after winning a trial at Te Teko in August, 2011, and after his debut third at Te Rapa last February.

"He's had two lots of six months on the sidelines," James said.

"I was frightened to line him up today.

"We've thrown the problem at vets all round the world. Coolmore [Stud] owns half of him, and they have access to some firepower.

"But they cannot diagnose it. The only thing we can come up with is he might be extremely shin sore, which seems incredible for a four-year-old.

"You can't touch him when he's sore - he'd eat you.

"But that run today is a mark of how good he is."

Future King, by Encosta De Lago, looked destined to finish among the also-rans when he was back in the field on the home turn, with a wall of horses in front of him. But when rider Vinnie Colgan found room, he rocketed through the pack in a few giant strides, racing away to win by 2 lengths, clocking 1:04.03 for the 1100 metres.

- Sunday Star Times

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