Win ends the long road back from tragedy for Telfer
By Garrick Knight
It was only a race at Cambridge on a cool winter’s Thursday night, but winning with Flying Steps meant a heck of a lot to Steve Telfer.
The daughter of American Ideal, on the opening day of her four-year-old season, won a frenetic junior drivers’ event over 2700 metres, which was run in a 2-minute mile-rate.
It was only her second start back from a catastrophic race night accident which ended the life of one of her stablemates and the career of another.
Rewind back to Christmas time and the Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship Stakes (Group 2), at Alexandra Park.
It would ultimately be the race that Belle Of Montana announced herself on the big stage but for Telfer it became the subject of a recurring nightmare.
Heading down the back straight for the last time, all three Telfer-trained horses were on the marker pegs - three, four and five back.
The classy Gibson Girl, three back, would lay in and strike some markers, then trip and hit the deck.
Stablemate Macy Maguire would have nowhere to go except straight over the top and then Flying Steps, last on the inner, rammed straight in to the stricken pair.
In the wash-up, Benjamin Butcher had snapped his collarbone driving Flying Steps, Macy Maguire suffered irrecoverable injuries and was put down on the track, while Flying Steps and Gibson Girl were also severely injured.
Flying Steps needed three months in the paddock to recover.
“She had deep holes in her knees,” said Telfer.
“It was a major injury, though it didn’t ever look like it was going to stop her from racing again. It just took a long time to fully heal up.”
The story didn’t have such a favourable outcome for the connections of Gibson Girl.
“She came back in to work and was physically fine, but one of her injuries was going to prohibit her from reaching her potential, so her owners made the decision to retire her.
“It’s such a shame as she was a very good filly and I don’t know where she could have ended up, but it was starting to look like she would be in all the big three-year-old fillies’ races.”
Flying Steps was training back up through the autumn and made it back to the track in early April, though Telfer wasn’t completely happy with her.
“When she first came back, she seemed to be very heavy-winded.
“She was going good, but not as good as she can and had just been ok in a couple of trials and that first start back.”
Then another setback came in June, not just for her, but the entire stable.
“We had to turn the whole team out when we got hit with a contagious virus.
“It was going through most of them so we made the decision to put them all in the paddock for two week and not touch them.”
The result was Telfer’s season ended on June 21 and Thursday night at Cambridge was his first runner in six weeks.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been at the races but it was the right thing to do and, touch wood, since we started back up, everything has been fine and most of them are jumping out of their skin.”
Curiously, the slight hiccup appears to have done wonders for Flying Steps, too.
“Since she had that wee break, she’s been a different horse.
“She’s come back really bright and full of herself and I think has just trimmed up a little more.”
Thursday night’s free win in the hands of Alicia Harrison was just what the doctor ordered and will set her up nicely for a chance to return to Alexandra Park and exercise some demons.
“She’s always been a nice filly and hopefully she can kick on and have a really good season.”
In other stable news, headline act Triple Eight is back in full work ahead of a tilt at the Auckland Inter Dominions, and has undergone an ownership change with three Australians buying a quarter share off existing part-owner, Scott Plant.
“It hasn’t been formalised yet – he just has to have a scope when he’s close to race fitness, but he’s passed all his other vetting requirements.
“We’ll nominate him for the New Zealand Cup but I’m probably leaning towards staying home and focusing on the Inter Dominions and Auckland Cup with him.
“I have to say he looks great though; after his two Addington runs we left him down there to go on the water walker for four or five weeks and looks to have really helped him.”
Veteran pacer and stable favourite No Doctor Needed, now nine, also did six weeks on the water walker after an injury flare up back in April.
He’s back in the stable and due to be scanned any day, after which a decision will be made on his future.
Classy mare Step Up is also back in work after a profitable Australian campaign that netted four wins, around $60,000 and some black type.
She’ll track towards the mares’ features this season, but despite the retirement of Elle Mac and Dream About Me, Telfer is still weary about what lies ahead.
“We’ll definitely head down the feature race track with her but she’s got Belle Of Montana and Princess Tiffany coming up underneath her, and they are very classy, so it won’t get any easier.
“But she’s a lovely mare, is very tractable and tries hard.”
With spring just around the corner, Telfer also made mention of a few three-year-olds worth keeping an eye on.
“Jack Ryan and Major Mac are probably the best of the colts; Major Mac hasn’t been to the races yet but he’s quite a nice horse.
“But I’d probably lean towards the fillies moreso and one especially, Mimi E Coco, who looks like being very good.
“She’s a full sister to No Doctor Needed, and had one start last season for a placing against the older horses.
“I think she’ll definitely be good enough to line up in the good races later in the season.”