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Perigo ends long, fruitful journey

If you had told anybody in northern harness racing a decade ago that Perigo would end up winning 19 races they would have laughed at you. But that was the score the grand old man of New Zealand trotting wracked up before his career ended at the remarkable age of 15 last week. There were days gone by, and Perigo’s is almost old enough to remember them, when any trotter winning 19 races was a great, especially if they could put $141,814 in the bank while doing it. But Perigo was never a great. He was just a cranky old man with a great will to win and trainers kind to shower him with tender loving care to get him to a racing age few horses will ever see.

Trainer Kevin Smith had wanted to do what virtually no horse in 50 years had done and win a race with Perigo as a 15-year-old but it turned out his first start at that age was his last start ever. He trotted roughly and eventually galloped at Alexandra Park 12 days ago, and was about to get a 14-day stand down from the stewards. Smith decided that wasn’t fair on the old boy and so an era, one that may not be replicated ever again in modern racing, was over. Not a bad score though, those 19 wins joined by 27 placings, figures that seemed very unlikely after his first three seasons of racing combined for just two wins. He battled away after that, had a good season as a 7-year-old winning four of his 19 starts then it was back to little joy until he incredibly won five races as a 13-year-old.

By then he had found his way to Kevin Smith, after years with his old mate Peter Young. Smith trained him for all but a few starts in the last three seasons. “He was just a great old trier who had a really big heart,” said Smith. “He didn’t have the best gait and like any horse his age, he started to have a few niggles later in life. “But the key to that was not working him too hard. “The last race he won a few starts back he had hardly been worked much beforehand. “And a lot of the work he did at home was alongside a quad bike.”

That was partly because Perigo had turned into the typical bossy old man, reluctant to work in the cart. “He’d try and kick you out, or run you into a fence. He could be quite aggressive. “But I think that attitude, that spirit is one thing that kept him going so long.” Now Perigo has been retired he will be used as a hack by horsewoman Megan Teaz. “He is going to a good home and Megan’s mother was one of his first trainers so it will be a bit like going home for him.” Home after a long and surprisingly fruitful journey.

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