In the space of just a few months, For A Reason has somehow managed to give McCarthy his two greatest highlights in the sport. The first was back on August 3 when For A Reason - stepping out to race for the first time in 27 months – dug deep to win an M2/M3 race at Menangle. Then, to cap one of the great comeback stories, For A Reason – or Frank The Tank as he’s less formally known – claimed the Cox Plate of harness racing with last Saturday night’s Victoria Cup win.
“I’ve had some amazing highs in this sport, but none bigger than this,” McCarthy said last Saturday night. “There’s something about this horse I just love, always have. “That win, when he came back from his two years out, really blew me away. It was a nothing race, but it meant everything to me to get him back with a win.
“Now, he’s kept getting better and better and he’s won a Victoria Cup. He did it so easily too.” For A Reason was a champion 3-year-old, but had his career halted early in his 4-year-old season with an injury to a back ankle. “That led to another problem developing in his back and he’s such a well-bred stallion we decided to retire him send him to stud. His racing days were over,” McCarthy said. For A Reason served 45 mares at Yirribee Stud.
“The boys down there said he looked so well and told me I should give him another crack at racing,” McCarthy said. “I wasn’t so sure, but I told them to jog him up for a month. I called after a month and they said he was really well. “He did another month jogging and the report was the same. Then, after 11 weeks jogging on their heavy sand track, they rang me and said he was so well and getting so fit I had to come and get him.” And that’s how the comeback started which has so far netted seven starts for four wins, two seconds and a third. Oh, and that’s not to mention almost $400,000 in stakemoney.
Punters dropped-off For A Reason after his third in the Miracle Mile when he started favourite. He was sent out a $13.90 shot last Saturday, but always looked a huge chance in running after a brilliant McCarthy drive. Perhaps the winning move came in the first 200m when he deliberated snagged back to allow Kate Gath aboard Caribbean Blaster to drop into the running line in front of For A Reason.
“I really rate that horse and knew he’d be a great horse to follow into the race. I thought Kate would have to pull three-wide at some stage and I’d follow her,” McCarthy said. That’s just what happened. Gath, sensing the three-wide train was starting, came three-wide without cover on Caribbean Blaster at the 1200m and McCarthy grabbed the trail home. As Caribbean Blaster surged to the lead rounding the home turn, McCarthy stalked him and then pounced on the lead to win running away by just over three metres in a slick 1.53.8 mile rate for 2240m – just 0.4 outside Smoken Up’s track record.
Caribbean Blaster’s effort to run second was an even better run than he produced to win the Victoria Cup 12 months earlier. “That’s the best he’s ever gone. I’m so proud of him. He never lets us down in the big ones,” driver Kate Gath said. Although the overall time was fast, it was a tactical race with an early burn between The Gold Ace (who crossed to lead from the extreme outside) and amazing veteran Smoken Up, who attacked in the first 600m to try and get the lead.
The pace then slackened for a relatively comfortable 60.4 middle half, then the closing splits were 55 and 27.2. That made the efforts of Christen Me (third) and Beautide (fourth) remarkable given they were running last and second last at the 600m. “The leaders looked so far in front of us when I started my run. I thought he went absolutely huge to get that close (beaten just 6.2m),” Christen Me’s driver Dexter Dunn said.
“His runs in the Miracle Mile and now here have been fantastic. He’s certainly shown he’s right up with the very best of them.” James Rattray was similarly glowing about his Miracle Mile winner Beautide. “It’s 2240m, but it’s really like a sprint race and we were just too far off the leaders. He hit the line really well,” he said.
“He’ll go home for a freshen now then I’ll bring him back for the Ballarat Cup. He won’t run in the Hunter Cup because he doesn’t like stands.” Restrepo should have finished closer than fifth after being dragged back by the tiring Smoken Up approaching the final bend. He got going again late, but lost his spot and valuable momentum.
The Gold Ace (sixth) won plenty of fans for holding on so gamely after burning early then copping plenty of heat from Smoken Up. “We just did too much early, but he’s a really serious horse this one,” driver Andy McCarthy said. Terrorway (seventh) had to change course a couple of times at a crucial stage, but didn’t have the “ping” of horses like Christen Me and Beautide. Mah Sish (eighth) had a cosy run back on the inside and just held his ground. He’s battling this season. Bitobliss (ninth) was awful after trailing the leader and being under pressure as far out as the 400m. Smoken Up (11th) needed to find the lead. When he didn’t he always going to struggle. He was spent at the 450m and wilted to finish 27m away in his sixth Victoria Cup.