Excuse Me Madam in good form
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.