Steve Moran

The search for the winning post on Magic Millions day

It’s an assertion which, of course, can be neither proved nor disproved but I’m pretty sure there’s never been a racehorse who actually “knows” where the winning post is.

I’m similarly pretty sure that none have an extraordinarily greater will to win or determination than others. I’ll accept that the right temperament might dictate that some respond, better than others, to the rider’s urging when the chips are down but – in essence – races are won by the horse’s physical capability and the jockey’s judgement.

This, I’ll concede, may leave me at a loss to explain the exploits of those frequently, marvellous narrow winners like Northerly and Octagonal, other than to suppose they were just marginally better than their rivals.

It also leaves unanswered the question as to why winners tend to keep winning.

As Pittsburgh Phil (the prince of punters, not the contract killer) observed more than 100 years ago: “Winners repeat frequently while the defeated are apt to be defeated almost continuously”.

Phil, real name George Elsworth Smith, was on to something as he invariably was – given that it is estimated that the punt had yielded him a fortune of around $100 million (on current valuation) at the time of his death in 1905.

It’s a lesson I’ve taken on board and I’m no longer confounded to see a horse win again despite all those he or she had beaten, at its previous start, subsequently fail.

It’s with this in mind that I am entertaining the notion that the Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young-trained Cusack (Not A Single Doubt) just might upset the hot pot and aptly (ambitiously) named Coolangatta (Written Tycoon) in Saturday’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic.

You see, the form from Cusack’s debut win at Ballarat in November is terrible. However, the manner of his win was excellent as he certainly responded to the vigorous urgings, almost from start to finish, of his rider Craig Newitt. He just might be one of those aforementioned ‘winners’ and he’s an enticing 30-1 plus to find out.

I also like the fact that he’s since had experience of the Gold Coast circuit, winning two trials and appearing to gallop much more within himself. Fifteen of the past 20 Magic Millions winners have drawn seven or better and Cusack is drawn six. It’s the same statistic for last start winners snaring the prize.

Cusack was a $200,000 Magic Millions buy for Busuttin Racing from Fernrigg Farm who, this year, offer his sister as Lot 792.

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace trained Coolangatta is also proving to be a winner and the $280,000 Magic Millions purchase from the Milburn Creek draft (bred by Highclere Stud) is absolutely a deserved favourite but nobody ever got rich backing ‘shorties’.

The stable do, however, return to the Gold Coast with the 2020 2YO Classic winner Away Game (Snitzel) and she is a betting proposition in the Magic Million Snippets. She is also nominated for the Fillies and Mares but co-trainer Eustace says the Snippets is the race she will more than likely contest.

Away Game returned from a let-up with a herculean performance behind unbeaten stablemate Marabi (I Am Invincible) in the Listed Christmas Stakes at Caulfield on  December 26. She conceded a huge start and 4.5 kilograms to the winner who is nominated for Saturday’s Group 3 Standish Handicap at Flemington.

The 2YO Classic winner will compete on Millions day for the third year straight, having finished a brave third in last year’s Magic Millions Guineas despite being galloped on. Her rivals, interestingly, may include Eleven Eleven (Fastnet Rock) who won the Guineas in 2020 and the Magic Millions Cup in 2021 and would become just the second three-time winner on the day (behind Invincibella).

Away Game is nothing if not game and that stands her in good stead.

“The majority of the riders and horses are game and will fight for victory no matter where they are placed,” Pittsburgh Phil observed in a remarkable endorsement of the game back in the late 19th century when I imagine there’d have been no absence of nefarious racetrack activity.

As to knowing or finding the finishing post; perhaps he summed it up best with: “Class in a horse is the ability possessed by it to carry its stipulated stake weight, take the track and go the distance that nature intended that it should go”. So you can keep searching through those catalogues this week!

As to the form guide? “It is as well to play horses that are in winning form. A horse in winning condition generally repeats or runs into the money,” he wrote.