Legendary horseman Bart Cummings has made a second career as a quipster, responsible for some of the best one-liners imaginable during his 60 years as a trainer.
For instance, his response to a health inspector as to the number of flies allowed in his stables – “How many am I allowed to have?” – is oft-quoted, while his insistence that jockey Darren Beadman should “get a second opinion” when he decided to retire to become a preacher is comedy gold.
But perhaps the most poignant of his quips over the years was a reference he made to his formula for success.
“Patience is the cheapest thing in racing and the thing most seldom used,” Cummings said in 2007.
His words must surely ring true to Peter McPhee and his McPhee Racing Syndicate, the owners of Stradbroke Handicap contender Belltone.
The Brahms gelding, who first graced the racetrack in October 2008, was originally trained by Paul Dawson, where he became known as one of the unluckiest horses in racing.
Under Dawson, he had 12 starts for two seconds, five thirds and three fourths – but he was unable to get his nose in front when it counted.
Seemingly destined to never win a race, the horse was transferred to Kelso Wood, a man of few words who always seems to have a good horse in his stable.
At his first start for Wood, he finally shed his maiden status, winning in imperious fashion by over three lengths.
It was the start of a grand campaign in which he won six of his seven starts, with his only defeat coming at the hands of subsequent Group 1 winner and Stradbroke opponent Solzhenitsyn.
This was Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country in an equine sense, with droughts and flooding rains the story of the career of Belltone.
And with it, the far horizons suddenly seemed within reach.
Last year, he narrowly missed qualifying for the Stradbroke when he finished second to Celtic Dancer in the QTC Cup, but wins in the Eye Liner Stakes at Ipswich and the Glasshouse Handicap at Caloundra were satisfactory consolations.
Now, 12 months later and off the back of a win in the BRC Sprint, he’s ready for his toughest test to date.
Even in the biggest race of his career, he is still playing second fiddle: this time, to the horse Wood labels “potentially the best horse I’ve ever trained” in Sizzling.
Nevertheless, he ranks as one of many chances in what is, as always, one of the most open races of the year.
Belltone is a $17 chance, with Sizzling a $5 second favourite behind Your Song ($4.60).
For the connections of Phelan Ready, they will be hoping they can finally end their torrid run of outs – if only the horse, currently a third emergency, can get a run.
Now a six year old, Phelan Ready is best remembered as a talented juvenile, winner of the Magic Millions Classic-Golden Slipper double in 2009.
In 33 starts since the 2009 Golden Slipper, he’s managed four seconds and six thirds and has run some mighty races at the highest level, but he’s yet to crack through for another victory.
To put this in some perspective, Phelan Ready’s last victory came two weeks before Black Caviar won her first race start at Flemington and approximately six weeks before So You Think won a midweek maiden at his first start at Rosehill.
Even scarier, if he races on as a seven year old next year, he may take on horses like this year’s Magic Millions Classic Real Surreal, who was sired by Phelan Ready’s Todman Stakes conqueror Real Saga.
He is currently $71.