Classie Brigade - "he's been a wonderful horse"

by Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

They dreamed of winning a fourth consecutive Kaikoura Cup with him but age has finally caught up with the grand campaigner that is Classie Brigade.

After finishing ninth in Alta Wiseguy's New Brighton Cup at Addington on Friday the decision was made over the weekend to retire the nine-year-old gelding.

"He's a wonderful horse," says co-owner Grant Eynon, "but he showed us that he's had enough."

"He has lost a metre or two of speed and you just can't do that against the best horses."

Purchased and raced by Eynon, his late father Colin and long-time friend Mark McKinnon, Classie Brigade (Bettor's Delight - Trigirl Brigade) was a $60,000 purchase at the 2014 yearling sales in Auckland. He finished with a career record of 21 wins from 94 starts and stakes earnings of $595,732, after debuting as a two-year-old.

With his impeccable standing start manners Classie's trademark was to get handy and put himself into races - and it reaped its rewards.

"When you think as well as the 21 wins he had 34 placings - either second or third - that's some achievement," says Eynon.

A Group One win was elusive but in his juvenile racing he tested the mighty Lazarus on many occasions and finished third to Cruz Bromac and Spankem in the 2019 New Zealand Cup as well as becoming the first horse to win the Kaikoura Cup three times, for trainer Robert Dunn. Classie Brigade went back-to-back-to-back in the Group 2 feature - twice at South Bay Raceway and then last year at Addington.

"We thought we'd try and keep him going to win a last one (4th), but winning three of them was a tremendous thrill," says Eynon.

Classie will now be re-educated to be ridden under saddle. He will stay in Canterbury for a while before heading up north to Eynon's Cambridge property where he'll spend his retirement.

Eynon plans to ride Classie himself. He is very much looking forward to it.

"I was thinking about it anyway but thought I'd wait for Classie. I used to ride and do showjumping but not in recent years."

"We won't do any jumping," he laughs, " but we will ride around Andrew and Lyn Neal's track next door and when we get our confidence up we will head out to the forest trails and the backblocks."

"Kawhia is not far away so we will do a lot of hacking and trekking."

While the horse he describes as "the best one I've had" is hanging up his hopples Eynon has around half a dozen to follow, including the promising Nicholas Cage, who has won three from five for the Neals, and Bach, who won on debut for the Dunns at Addington last month.

And there is also a half-brother to Classie Brigade (Art Major - Trigirl's Brigade) Eynon bought at this year's weanling sales.

"If he's only half as good as Classie Brigade I'll be happy."

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