Gelding gains comeback win
PETER McKay isn’t what you’d call a sensitive sort of guy, but that all changed when Joey Massino completed an amazing comeback at Tauranga last Saturday.
In his second start since returning from an injury-enforced absence of 21⁄ years, the 6-year-old was back in winning form with a brave frontrunning performance in the feature Tauranga sprint.
‘‘I was just about emotional,’’ says Peter, who trains Joey Massino in partnership with his son Jacob and shares ownership with his wife Kim and stable stalwart Trevor Luke. ‘‘He’s been a good horse to us and has been with us for a long time.’’
Nearly five years in fact, dating back to when the O’Reilly colt was purchased for $140,000 from Waikato Stud’s 2008 National Yearling Sale draft. Less than 24 hours earlier the McKays had pocketed their $560,000 share of the stake attached to the inaugural Karaka Million, compliments of the win by Joey Massino’s year-older half-brother Vincent Mangano.
That was incentive enough to reinvest some of the winnings in the colt that was to become known as Joey Massino, and he kept his end of the bargain. After several placings, including a fourth in the Group I Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes, he won his final two-year-old start, the Listed Champagne Stakes at Ellerslie.
He really blossomed the following summer with four wins that included the Group II Avondale and Great Northern Guineas and the Group III Wellington Stakes, but he pulled up sore in what would have been his final race before the New Zealand Derby and was found to have bone chips in a front fetlock joint.
After an operation to remove the chips and time off recovering, Joey Massino returned to training as a spring 4 year old, only to suffer a tendon strain that meant more time on the sideline. After being given the recommended time out he was back in work – by now it was early 2011 – but in his first serious piece of work he suffered another injury lower down in the same foreleg tendon.
As a colt with an attractive pedigree and good performance there was the potential for a stud career, but after making inquiries in various quarters and coming up blank, Peter McKay made the decision to geld Joey Massino.
‘‘By this stage he was four years old and we had to run him in a paddock by himself,’’ says Peter. ‘‘He looked pretty miserable standing around so we decided he would be better off as a gelding.
‘‘Not long after, I was talking to a studmaster who asked me where Joey was at and then he said he would have been interested in standing him. That was a bit frustrating given he had just been gelded but there wasn’t much we could do about it.’’
Fast forward to mid-2012 and Joey Massino had been given the green light to resume training and returned to competition with a trial in late September. He finished second in that and filled the same placing next time out a month later before making his long-awaited return to the races at Ellerslie on November 6.
He had no luck in that 1200-metre race but the main thing was that he pulled up in good shape, which meant a second-up run at Tauranga on Saturday – and the ultimate result, a return to the winner’s list.
‘‘That was different to a normal win,’’ says Peter. ‘‘Given what he’d been through it was just great to see him back.’’
Saturday was not without its concerns after morning rain softened the track. Luckily Joey Massino’s race was the fourth on the card and the track was still in reasonable condition. ‘‘It was getting borderline but we decided to leave him in.’’
After making the pace in the 1400-metre Gartshore Construction handicap, Joey Massino fought off his challengers to score by a head from the John Sargent-trained pair Made My Point and Sadist.
Now his connections are looking at feature 1600-metre events on the horizon, beginning with a race at Ellerslie early next month and the races such as the Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and the Thorndon Mile at Trentham later in January.
‘‘He’s unbeaten at 1600 metres and it makes sense to aim him at those races while he’s still reasonably well off in the handicap,’’ says Peter.
Meanwhile, older brother Vincent Mangano is on the verge of also regaining his best form. His last win was the Pegasus Stakes at Riccarton just over two years ago and he posted his first minor placing since March of last year when third at Ellerslie earlier this month. He followed that with a second placing in the Stewards’ Stakes at Riccarton last Wednesday and will be aimed at the Concorde Handicap at Ellerslie early next month.
Minor placings were also the lot of Matamata’s contingent on the final day of the big Riccarton carnival. The Ken and Bev Kelso-trained filly Fix put up another meritorious effort for third in the Group I New Zealand Bloodstock 1000 Guineas after having every chance, while the Graham Richardson-trained stayer Single Minded bounced back from a disappointing Melbourne campaign to finish second in the Group III New Zealand Cup.
On form: Joey Massino (9) makes a long-awaited return to the winner’s list with victory over Made My Point and Sadist in the rain at Tauranga on Saturday.