The Kaik starts clear favourite
By Garrick Knight
While his name is in the race book, John Bartlett is keen to deflect the praise for the remarkable turnaround in The Kaik.
The rejuvenated five-year-old will start the clear favourite for Sunday’s $10,000 Timaru Winter Cup at Phar Lap Raceway after two excellent runs against stronger opposition at Blenheim last week.
He’s come a long way from the horse that used to constantly frustrate punters and connections by promising a lot but delivering little.
This season, on Bartlett’s watch, and with part-owner Kim Butt in the cart, he’s won four races and nearly $35,000 in stakes.
“He’s sort of surprised us lately with how he’s stepped up,” said Bartlett.
“He’s got crook feet and I guess a change in scenery by being down at the beach has helped that.
“But really, my partner Virginia deserves a lot of the credit; she rides him all the time.
“I can’t remember the last time I put him the cart outside of race day, to be honest.
“We don’t even jog him anymore. He just goes down to the beach for a swim on jog days.”
Plus, Bartlett says, the horse gets plenty of exercise in a rather large paddock.
“He’s really paddock-trained. A lot of people say their horses are, but really they’re just in yards the size of your bedroom.
“Our horses are out in two or three-acre paddocks. We just let them go out there and be horses.”
The Kaik isn’t phased by the cold, though Bartlett is.
“It’s nine o’clock and I still haven’t gone outside to feed him yet. I looked out the window just now and the ground is still white.”
Bartlett also paid tribute to Butt, who will do the driving again.
It was Butt and fiancé Jonny Cox that originally purchased The Kaik out of Cran Dalgety’s stable and syndicated him amongst a large group of owners for just $5,000.
“A lot of credit has to go to Kim; she drives him so well.
“She sits him there and lets him run home good. He’s not driven ‘around the world’.
“She drives him how he likes to be driven and that means we’ve always got a horse to go around the next week.”
And that longevity has been a big part of The Kaik’s story this season.
“He’s been racing since September and has had something like 31 or 32 starts.
“But he’s getting better and better. He just saves everything for race day.”
This week The Kaik strikes a fairly modest field and he presents with clearly the best form in the race, a point not lost on his trainer.
“You’d think he’d go pretty close this week.
“He’s been racing in better fields at Waterlea and Nelson. The likes of Storm Prince and Smokin By.”
He’s drawn three on the front line and that might mean a slight shift in the usual Butt tactics of driving him with a sit.
“If he steps well, I’d like to see her drive him like the best horse in the race, but it will be up to Kim.
“You don’t want to be ducking for cover every time.
“I think he should be winning.”
Bartlett views Smarter VC, on the way back from injury for good friend Matt Purvis, as the horse to beat.
“He’s had two runs now and is a bit fitter. I know Matt is quite happy with him.”