Excitement ahead of U May Cullect’s return
By Jonny Turner
The wait is finally over, southern sensation U May Cullect is back.
The freak from Oreti beach will start at Winton on Thursday for the first time since a tendon injury forced him in to a lengthy rehabilitation following his only defeat race day defeat over a year ago.
U May Cullect’s resumption culminates a long road back to the races which started with his owner Tom Kilkelly giving the horse more than eight months walking to strengthen the troublesome tendon.
The seven-yhear-old’s rise from obscurity to win his first eight starts made U May Cullect a pin up horse known across Australasia and something of an equine cult hero.
Kilkelly admitted the interest in the horse’s progress back to the races has been incredible and almost overwhelming.
“You take a maiden to the races and it goes alright – who cares – it’s no big deal,” the owner said.
“But with this horse it is more for other people than just me.”
“There are so many people across Southland and New Zealand looking forward to the horse going, and going good, that you feel like you are letting people down if he doesn’t go good.”
U May Cullect will not be at peak fitness when he steps away from the 20m back mark in race 10 on Thursday.
The pacer has not had a trial or a workout to prepare him for his return with Barclay and Ellis wanting to limit the stress on the horse’s body ahead of his ultimate goal, the New Zealand Cup.
“The plan is – Kirstin and Tank are doing it – is to just give the horse a few starts and get him ready for the cup,” Kilkelly said.
“He is such a natural athlete that you don’t have to go out and grind and go to all the race meetings to get him fit.”
“You are better off not having all those starts.”
It has been a case of so far, so good with U May Cullect’s tendon injury leading in to his new campaign.
“The tendons are all good, we were a wee bit concerned, so we took him to [vet] Brendon Bell and he scanned him, as well as x-rayed him.”
“And he said if I was having to sign this horse off for export overseas I would be happy to sign the docket.”
U May Cullect tasted his only career defeat in the corresponding race at the same Winton meeting last year when getting well back on a good speed.
The pacer is likely to be back in the running again on Thursday as Kilkelly said Barclay has advised stewards she intends to drive the horse with one late run in the 2400m handicap.
That gives U May Cullect’s rivals an opportunity to pinch a break and set him an almost impossible task to win, as they did last year.
Punters should expect the seven-year-old’s main rival, Spirit Of St Louis, to be trying to do exactly that and turn the 2400m handicap into a test of stamina.
The Graeme Anderson and Mike Love trained pacer goes in to the event with the benefit of three post-lockdown starts, including a creditable sixth placing behind Self Assured in the Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington.
U May Cullect’s resumption is set to be a scintillating contest as he also clashes with Pembrook Playboy, Franco Santino, Jazzy Star and Memphis Tennessee.
Franco Santino won last year’s edition of the race, handing U May Cullet his first defeat.
His stablemate, Pembrook Playboy, was brilliant in Southland last season before lockdown ended his New Zealand Derby tilt.
Jazzy Star ran on strongly in his first up assignment at Addington and should thrive on the roomy Winton track.
Memphis Tennessee has trialled strongly in Canterbury and looks back to his best after a troubled last campaign.