Ex­cuse Me Madam in good form

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - DEN­NIS RYAN Rac­ing colum­nist

LAST Fri­day’s Mata­mata race meet­ing may have been a low-key af­fair but that didn’t de­tract from Andrew Scott’s achieve­ment in reach­ing a land­mark 500 New Zealand ca­reer wins with maiden grad­u­ate Ex­cuse Me Madam.

In fact Ex­cuse Me Madam’s im­pres­sive win com­pleted a per­fect script, given it took place on her trainer’s home track and that her own­ers in­clude that doyen of Mata­mata rac­ing Dave O’Sullivan.

There was a cer­tain level of am­bi­tion in set­ting the ris­ing fiveyear-old for Fri­day’s race meet­ing, not so much to do with the min­i­mal $5000 stake but more about the tim­ing of the race.

Ex­cuse Me Madam had not raced for nearly a year, when nar­rowly beaten by a smart one in Fid­dler, yet Andrew and his lead­ing hand at Wex­ford Sta­bles, Lance O’Sullivan, de­cided six weeks ear­lier that Mata­mata’s fi­nal race day of the 2010-11 sea­son would be the time to strike.

‘‘She’s had an on-and-off ca­reer due to var­i­ous set­backs but we al­ways knew the abil­ity was there,’’ said her trainer. ‘‘When she came back in early June it seemed that she had fi­nally shaken off her prob­lems and that was when we de­cided to set her for last week’s meet­ing.’’

An­other good rea­son to have Ex­cuse Me Madam cherry ripe to fly the Wex­ford colours last Fri­day was that this is the only Mata­mata meet­ing on the yearly calendar at­tended by Paul O’Sullivan, back home vis­it­ing fam­ily and friends dur­ing the down time be­tween Hong Kong rac­ing sea­sons.

‘‘It re­ally meant some­thing to have ev­ery­one there, in­clud­ing Paul and other things like Mickey Cole­man rid­ing her,’’ Andrew added. ‘‘It mightn’t have been my big­gest win but it’s one that stands out for other rea­sons.’’

Andrew’s first ever train­ing win was also a $5000 mid­week maiden af­fair, back on Au­gust 18 1999 with Avonella at Tau­ranga. Back then he was train­ing in part­ner­ship with Mike Moroney, hav­ing moved north from Fox­ton to take a sta­ble­hand’s po­si­tion at Bal­ly­more in late 1997.

Andrew soon proved his worth and grad­u­ated to foreman be­fore Mike took him on as his ju­nior part­ner at the start of the 1999-2000 sea­son. By this time Mike had es­tab­lished a base in Aus­tralia, ini­tially in Ade­laide be­fore step­ping up to an­other level with a sta­ble at Flem­ing­ton.

Sec­ond Com­ing had scored a break­through win for the Moroney sta­ble in the 1997 Vic­to­ria Derby but even bet­ter was to come when Brew and Sec­ond Com­ing fin­ished first and third in the 2000 Mel­bourne Cup.

‘‘ I know they were both in Mike’s Mel­bourne sta­ble but it was still amaz­ing to be in some way part of that,’’ said Andrew. ‘‘It gave a sense of even a race like the Mel­bourne Cup be­ing within reach.’’

A host of big win­ners came out of Bal­ly­more dur­ing Andrew’s time there, headed by that freak­ish gal­loper Xcel­lent, a dual Mercedes Horse of the Year with wins in such races as the New Zealand Derby, Kelt Cap­i­tal Stakes and Mudg­way Partsworld Stakes as well as fin­ish­ing third in the Mel­bourne Cup.

‘‘Xcel­lent was the stand-out in my time at Bal­ly­more, he was just some­thing else but there were lots of other big mo­ments there. I’d have to say Cut The Cake’s Derby win was an­other that sticks out in my mem­ory.’’

In 2006 Andrew was faced with a ma­jor de­ci­sion when he was ap­proached to go into part­ner­ship with Lance O’Sullivan, whose own life had un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant change fol­low­ing his re­tire­ment from race rid­ing and tak­ing over from his brother Paul as res­i­dent trainer at Wex­ford Sta­bles when, in 2004, the lat­ter was granted a li­cence to train in Hong Kong.

Andrew took the op­por­tu­nity of­fered, which en­tailed train­ing in part­ner­ship with Lance for two years be­fore tak­ing sole charge at the start of the 2008-09 sea­son.

‘‘I’m very pleased with the way it’s all worked out,’’ he said. ‘‘My name’s in the book but Lance has re­mained very in­volved, plus I’ve got Paul and DJ in the wings to lend their sup­port and ad­vice if it’s needed.’’

Ex­cuse Me Madam’s suc­cess on Fri­day took Andrew’s 2010-11 sea­son tally to 28 wins, plac­ing him 16th equal on the na­tional train­ers’ pre­mier­ship. That may pale against pre­vi­ous deeds dur­ing Dave and Paul O’Sullivan’s hal­cyon days in the fi­nal three decades of last cen­tury but given the lower num­bers and other dy­nam­ics of the mod­ern day Wex­ford model, Andrew is sat­is­fied with his re­sults.

‘‘We sold a lot of horses out of the sta­ble dur­ing the sea­son which left us with a lot less to take to the races but it was good to notch an­other Group One win with Miss Raggedy Ann in the Rail­way, plus we had six in­di­vid­ual two-year-old win­ners.

‘‘Those just turned three-yearolds along with a good group of un­tried young­sters give me a fair bit to work with head­ing into the new sea­son.’’

Ex­cuse Me Madam was bred at Waikato Stud and was the first of a tre­ble by res­i­dent sire No Ex­cuse Needed on the fi­nal week­end of the sea­son. At Te Rapa on Satur­day No Ex­cuse Maggie added an­other, while the fi­nal two-year-old stakes race of the sea­son, the Ry­der Stakes, was won by the Waikato Stud-bred Snow Ex­cuse, tak­ing his sire’s tally of black-type win­ners to 11.

Snow Ex­cuse was rid­den by Michael Cole­man, while just min­utes later back at Te Rapa, the very last stakes race of the sea­son, the Tau­marunui Gold Cup, was won by Wan­ganui mare Marea Alta in the hands of an­other lo­cal, Noel Har­ris.

At 56 years, Noel can fairly be de­scribed as the vet­eran of the jock­eys’ room but age, as they say, has not wea­ried him. Eigh­teen wins – three of them at black-type level – from a steady-as-she-goes 202 rides in the past sea­son rep­re­sent a very re­spectable re­turn.

When the right prospect comes along he’s more than a match for any of his younger ri­vals and as he showed by strip­ping down to 53kg for Satur­day’s mount, there’s no doubt­ing his de­sire to keep rid­ing win­ners.

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