Fursdons celebrate Melbourne win
Matamata couple Karen and Kevin Fursdon had an unexpected windfall last weekend when their former stable member I’ll’ava’alf won the Crisp Steeplechase in Melbourne.
I’ll’ava’alf won six of his 38 flat starts from Willow Stables as well as being placed in each of his four starts over hurdles, but the decision was made last year to sell him to a Victorian syndicate on the lookout for likely jumpers.
The syndicate manager is Victorian Jumps Association chairman Sandy McGregor, best known for last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance but also involved with an earlier recruit from the Fursdon stable, Tequila At Midnite.
Kevin Fursdon and fellow owner Peter Stanaway kept a 10 per cent share in I’ll’ava’alf, who had his first win under the new arrangement when successful last month in a maiden hurdle at Warrnambool, where he is trained by Patrick Ryan.
He lost his rider when stepping up to steeplechase fences at his next start and followed that with a fourth placing on the flat. That was just last Thursday and it came as a surprise to his former trainer when he fronted up in Sunday’s A$125,000 Crisp Steeplechase.
The upshot was that I’ll’ava’alf scored an unlikely win in the big event, heading a trifecta completed by fellow Kiwi gallopers Lucky Tonight and Zed Em. The other surprise about the result was that the hot favourite, star New Zealand jumper Sea King, failed to complete the course.
In a freak accident, a section of running rail that had been dislodged by the horse ahead of him speared Sea King in the chest and in the melee he lost his rider Steven Pateman.
The events around that catastrophe, which left Sea King with a nasty wound that needed stitching, only became known later, while back in Matamata the Fursdons were celebrating their unlikely win.
‘‘It surprised us even to see him in the race let alone come out and win it,’’ said Karen. whose own season on the home front has kicked off in perfect style.
‘‘It’s great that Kevin and Peter decided to keep a share and now we’re going over for his next start in the Grand National Steeples at Ballarat.’’
That race on August 21 carries a stake of A$350,000 and even a placing should guarantee that the bloke who named I’ll’ava’alf will allow himself the luxury of more than one full pint.
Matamata trainer Karen Fursdon leads Our Zara away after the horse’s win in the Stella Artois 2000 at New Plymouth in 2012.