‘Substitute’ horse a dream come true

Taranaki Racing Board member Gavin Benton presents an award to, from left, Shirley and John Maxted and Patsy Vermunt. Photo: New Plymouth Raceway

A Te Awamutu racing syndicate is celebrating breaking its duck in New Plymouth – with a horse they never planned to own.

The syndicate group known as JS and P is made up of racing enthusiasts John and Shirley Maxted and syndicate manager Patsy Vermunt.

The group recently bought a five percent stake in the John Bell trained horse Cleese after their own horse was injured last month.

“Dark Horse was spooked by a couple of dogs and ended up being forced through a wooden fence and breaking its fetlock (bone just above the hoof) and after we found out that she wouldn’t be able to race for a while, if ever again, we didn’t know what to do,” John Maxted said.

“John Bell got in touch with us and gave us the option to jump on board and get a part ownership in one of his new horses called Cleese.”

Cleese collects his maiden win.

The group has been together working with John Bell for five years having previously met at Te Rapa racecourse.

“We’re not rich people but just love the sport and thanks to John we get to have a greater part in it,” Patsy said.

Since working with Bell one thing had eluded the syndicate – a win. That all changed with their maiden win in New Plymouth.

Cleese was among the favourites for the $10,000 Anton Mora Maiden over 1600m and Sam Spratt rode him to a length win to pay $3.20.

For the trio, seeing the three-year-old gelding cross the line in front of the pack was something of a fairytale.

“It was just a euphoria we’d never experienced before and a bit of an emotional moment for all of us,” Patsy said.

“We couldn’t get out of the owners’ room after the race because everyone was stopping us and wanting to congratulate us.”

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