Tickle Me Pink motored home for a sensational win

by Garrick Knight

There was a point towards the back end of last year when Tony Herlihy wondered whether Tickle Me Pink would even race as a three-year-old this season, much less win a stakes race.

But the care and patience of her owners enabled the blueblood trotting filly to make it back in the autumn and to win Friday night’s Group 2 $60,000 Haras des Trotteurs Sires Stakes Championship for three-year-olds.

Herlihy, who trains and drives the daughter of Muscle Hill, said a trip to Australia last winter quickly unraveled.

“She had qualified for the Breeders Crown Final but I said to the owners that she had lost too much condition and looked so ordinary, that we were better off to scratch and come home.”

That wasn’t the end of her problems – a raging infection took an immense toll on Tickle Me Pink and at one point her upcoming three-year-old season looked like a write-off.

“The owners kept asking what the targets were for this season but all I could really say was she would tell us when she was ready.

“I just couldn’t make any plans with her because we had to wait so long for her to get healthy again.”

Ken and Karen Breckon bred Tickle Me Pink and leased her to a syndicate of friends and they weren’t about to let anything happen to their girl.

“It’s a real testament to Ken, Karen, the vets and staff at Breckons Farms,” said Herlihy.

“They left no stone unturned getting her right and she received the very best care; when she came back to me, she was in great nick.”

A couple of tidy workouts at Pukekohe had Herlihy confident enough to throw her in the deep end fresh-up after nine months, taking on the better colts and geldings.

But he wasn’t thinking of winning, and certainly not after sitting parked like she did.

“That was the only place I didn’t want to be, really, after being away from the races for so long.

“But I was lucky that she relaxed well and the race wasn’t run too hard.”

There was a sensation early when hot favourite Enhance Your Calm galloped off the mobile arm and the other hot pot, Lotamuscle, had to go back from a second line draw.

Both motored home down the outside late but Tickle Me Pink did enough to hold on and win from Lotamuscle and his stablemate, Gil Favor, who trailed.

“She was getting a bit tired there at the end but we had enough of a break on them.”

Next up for Tickle Me Pink will be a crack at the Trotting Guineas ($25,000) on May 10 and then the Northern Trotting Oaks ($30,000) on May 17, both at Alexandra Park.

Safely through them, a trip to Christchurch for the Harness Jewels beckons.

“We’ll get her ready for the Oaks first and foremost, but I’d like to think we’ll go down to the Jewels after.”

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