Phelan answers eleventh-hour call
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Mathew Hickey is a relieved man after northern reinsman Scott Phelan answered his eleventh-hour call to drive Get On The Sauce at Manawatu Raceway on Thursday.
The four-year-old trotter missed the opening day of the meeting due to a lack of senior drivers and Hickey said he was looking down the barrel of a similar result on Thursday, however, Phelan was able to answer his prayers.
“Our problem has been a driver. We couldn’t get a driver on the first day, that is why we didn’t start him,” Hickey said.
“He goes okay, but he can be a bit difficult at the start. We have spent a lot of time getting him right.
“Andre Poutama usually drives him and got him settled, but Andre is in isolation at the moment so he can’t drive him.
“His manners at the start is the problem. We are getting on top of it. I have got to be careful who I put on him because if we mess it up, we will be back to where we started from.”
Thankful that his driving dilemma is now resolved, Hickey is looking forward to watching his sole runner go around in the Cartown Handicap Trot (2500m).
Get On The Sauce won his maiden first-up at Cambridge Raceway earlier this month and Hickey believes there is plenty left in store for the son of Angus Hall.
“He will be a better horse next year, but we were pleased with his last start win,” Hickey said.
“Andre drove him to perfection. He got him away perfectly. He is a very good trotter when he is trotting. Once he is on the journey, he is very solid.”
Hickey races Get On The Sauce with his family and good friend Ray Dempsey, who he has raced horses with for several decades.
“We started with Sergio Lady, he bred her, and we raced her together, and we have been together ever since,” Hickey said.
“He is a good guy, he never complains, and just goes with the flow.
“He enjoys his horses and he is still on the gate at Manawatu, he’s not doing too bad for 95.”
The pair also raced a couple of handy horses together, including Raydon and the ill-fated Foray.
“We have had some nice horses. This horse will be a nice horse too if we look after him,” Hickey said.
“Raydon would be the best on performance, but I felt Foray would have ended up a better horse but we lost him. He died of liver failure.
“He ran a track record at Cranbourne first-up over in Australia and then we brought him back and he was racing really well before he suffered the liver failure.”
Hickey said he has always enjoyed spending time with horses and it was only a matter of chance that he got involved in harness racing.
“I used to break-in horses,” he said. “I went dairy farming and an older guy I knew asked me to break in a trotter for him. I said I didn’t break-in anymore, but I would do this one for him.
“He wouldn’t take him away and he talked me into working it around the roads and one thing led to another and he was my first foray into trotting.
“I have never regretted it. We have three daughters and the horses have all put them into a house of their own, which is good.
“The big thing with harness racing is that you can do it yourself – you can own, train, and drive them.”
While in the twilight of his training career, Hickey said he still enjoys waking up in the morning to work the only trotter at Woodville racecourse.
“I have always got the best trotter in Woodville,” Hickey quipped.
“I am only a one-horse bloke now. I keep saying it’s my last one, but I am a slow learner.”