The comeback of the year
By Garrick Knight
It’s the comeback story of the year.
And until now, the reason behind A G’s White Socks’ disastrous Spring has been kept quiet.
But after another brilliant win on the second night of the Inter Dominion Carnival – his second in four days – part-owner and usual co-trainer Greg Hope was finally prepared to talk about what had been troubling his stable star.
“For the last two-and-a-half months, he’s been scouring constantly,” Hope told HRNZ.
“He basically had the shits every day and it would only be exasperated by going to the races.
“And the standing starts weren’t giving him much confidence either.”
Hope says he tried everything under the sun to curb the problem, but nothing worked.
“I tried every probiotic, every antibiotic, every ulcer treatment known to man.
“But it still wouldn’t bring it right.
“After Cup week I said to the other owners that we have to pull the pin on the Inter Dominions and get him right.
“Then, out of desperation, I tried him on a grain-free feed and it just turned him around. Within three days.
“He was back pooing right and seemed to be a different horse.”
Those three days were the last three days before the final acceptance fee was due for the Inter Dominions.
It was a Friday morning and Hope fast-worked him to see if they would change their plans at the last minute.
“The $450 was due that day and it was only after he trained super that I thought we might as well have a go.
“The fact we were able to fly up on the Monday made it much more attractive as well.”
But Hope and training partner/wife Nina decided they would stay home and focus on their horses given there had been a bug go through the stable.
“We had to sort through all the issues with them and that meant we couldn’t afford to come away.
“That’s the best way to fall out with owners is to head to Auckland with a horse of your own while the ones at home are having issues.
“We just felt it was the right to do, and he was never going to miss out at Barry Purdon’s.”
The fact A G’s White Socks was a nervous horse “with a history of a crook guts” meant his first choice of Maurice McKendry as trainer wasn’t going to be suitable.
“With Maurice having just moved properties and needing to float the horse every day, that wasn’t going to work.
“He suggested Barry (Purdon) and once Ricky May said he was only going up for the final night, we decided to offer the drive to Maurice.”
Hope confirmed McKendry would retain the drive in next Saturday’s Grand Final.
Hope said he, Nina and son Ben were overjoyed watching Tuesday night’s front-running win at home in North Canterbury.
“He’s always been a good horse, he’s just turned the corner and is a lot happier now.
“He was bolting in the (NZ) Free For All when he galloped and he would have run top four.
“In the Flying Stakes he gave them 100 metres and beat half of them home.
“This gut problem was exaggerated by his nerves and he was constantly getting himself work up on race day.
“It was just such a shame he lost his confidence.”
But it’s back now, and he’s vindicating his owners’ decision not to sell a month ago in spades.
Connections were offered in excess of $300,000 by American interests, but it was turned down.
Hope owns 40 percent of the horse so that is a ringing endorsement of his faith in the horse if ever there was one.
“We always knew the horse was up to very best and the money wasn’t enough really with all the owners in him and what we knew he was capable of.”