Karen Parsons adds final flourish at Te Rapa

It wasn't until Karen Parsons took the microphone, tears welled up in her eyes and her voice broke that Te Rapa racegoers realised how much Final Touch's win in yesterday's $200,000 Waikato Draught Sprint meant to her.

It started out to the usual script when Parsons said she had so many people to thank but as soon as she mentioned Bob Wood, you could tell this speech was coming deep from the heart.

"Today is all for Bob, he's been a wonderful friend for so long and he's helped me so much up here."

Wood, who Parsons called her Mr Fixit, died of a heart attack the previous morning, less than two days after Parsons helped the couple celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary in Levin.

"I was devastated when I heard. He was always there to help me when I came north. I'd say 'Bob, my truck's playing up, Bob I need this'. He was always organising stuff for me and the horses.

"And he was a loyal follower of this horse, he always backed her."

Parsons, from Balcairn in Canterbury, has based herself in Ohau on her northern campaign which in the last two months has netted three Group I wins, as Final Touch has plundered the Captain Cook Stakes, Telegraph Handicap and Waikato Sprint.

But Parsons said she was worried it wouldn't come together yesterday as Final Touch had not been herself since stablemate Arietta went home after the Wellington Cup meeting.

"She's been sulking, missing her mate, and we couldn't catch her to come to the races this morning."

She need not have worried, even jockey Chris Johnson saying he was surprised at how fast the mare accelerated when he found the gaps, easily holding late closers Xanadu and Zurella, who mounted a terrific burst from the rear.

Parsons praised Johnson, "the magic man", for his display but said it wasn't so much Final Touch furnishing into a stronger mare at five that explained her outstanding form, rather a result delayed by a near death illness at 3.

"She beat King's Rose in a lead- up race to the One Thousand Guineas and we thought she was a serious chance but she got a virus and nearly died. She had a massively high temperature and needed a lot of antibiotics.

"The vet said it wasn't a matter of how long she'd need off.

"He said he'd have to see if he could save her first. She was fighting for her life.

"She looked dead as a dodo, standing there like a half sucked jube."

That wasn't the end of the troubles for Final Touch, who battled a succession of injuries and setbacks, like the day she kicked a rail and gouged a leg, which bled profusely.

But through it all, Final Touch's laid-back nature helped her cope.

"She never knocks herself around at home. It's hard to get a line on how she is because she never works any good. We work her with our sackers (slow ones) and trotters and it makes no difference."

Parsons is adamant working Final Touch at the beach, rather than the track, is the answer.

"I go to the track and I see all the track-trained horses jumping and leaping about. But every day is a cruise for her at the beach. She walks in the water, wanders around and rolls in the sand. She has a good life."

Parsons said it was nearly time for a summer holiday for Final Touch. The Haunui Farm Classic (wfa 1600m) on February 23 might be her season swansong.

Sunday News