Day At The Track

'Goose' brings reward for effort at last

07:37 PM 21 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Michelle Wight, Reactor Now and Grant Campbell
Michelle Wight, Reactor Now and Grant Campbell
Michelle Wight Photo

If ever there was a horse who shouldn’t have “made it”, Great Western Harness Racing trainer Michelle Wight reckons it’s her promising three-year-old Reactor Now (Auckland Reactor-Who’s Sorry Now (Western Ideal).

Wight freely admits the accident-prone gelding has presented some challenges – but after two assertive wins in succession, it seems “Goose”, as he is known around the stables, might finally be repaying her dedication.

“To put it bluntly, he sat on a post just before he was due to come back into work as a yearling and the injury he sustained was horrible.  We really weren’t sure he would ever race,” Wight said.

And anyone who’s ever tended a serious equine injury wouldn’t dare argue. The 16-inch gash in the large muscle mass on the horse’s near side rump was deep and extremely difficult to manage.  But, over a period of four months, Wight and her husband Craig, with the assistance of their vet, managed to nurse Goose back into “one piece”.

“We had a few setbacks along the way, including at one stage the internal stitches breaking open, but we got there in the end,” Wight said.

But even after the prolonged recovery, the troubles weren’t over for Reactor Now.

“We finally got him back into work as a two-year-old and there was another hiccup.  Because of the damage to the muscle, he was a little short in his action on that leg, which we were just working him through slowly,” Wight said.

“One day he just worked a little bit lame on the leg and I got the vet to have a look and he’d somehow fractured a pastern bone. So, yes, he has been a project!” she laughed.

Wight said Reactor Now’s three-year-old preparation had been necessarily and understandably slow.

“We probably had him in work most of the last half of last year and have been mindful of allowing him to make a full recovery and looking after him,” she said.

The gelding had his first start at Horsham in February but “got a bit excited” and proved a handful for Wight’s brother-in-law, reinsman Grant Campbell.

But Campbell managed the gelding superbly when he returned to the track at Ballarat a month later, easing Reactor Now from the mobile barrier as the leaders poured on the speed.  At one stage in the first lap Campbell found himself 40 metres from the leaders, but unflustered tacked on with 1200 to go, slid into the death seat and applied the pressure.  He hit the front before the home turn and dashed away to score by 12 metres untouched.

To watch the video replay of this race click on this link.

The pacer was just as impressive at Terang a fortnight later (March 19) when he was caught three wide early, for nearly half a lap, before working to the death-seat.  Approaching the bell, Campbell clicked the big fellow up a gear to surge to the lead.  When he pulled the plugs on the home corner, Reactor Now careered clear, eventually winning by 10 metres, with the last quarter in a sizzling 27.4 (half in 56.6).

To watch the video replay of this race click on this link.

“He’s always showed his potential, but he’s been a big, awkward, green fellow and he’s taken a lot of time to learn, and probably get the confidence to go fast,” Wight said.

“When he’s within his comfort zone he is good, but if you push him beyond that, he can get a bit rough and break,” she said.

“But in his two wins he has won well within himself and we haven’t pushed him, so we haven’t really found the bottom of him yet. I think if one came up beside him he would find a little bit because he has got a competitive streak.

“It’s fair to say he’s done more than we expected at this stage.”

Although horse and connections endured a torrid 18 months, Wight said Reactor Now ticked all the boxes when he was purchased after the APG Gold 2016 sale.

“He’s owned by Graeme and Liz Old, their nephew Frank and his wife Robyn and their daughter Narelle Hall and her husband Steve,” she explained.

“He was a bit of an afterthought at the sales because all the ones we liked were above our budget. So, at the end of the day we were looking at what had been passed in.

“My husband Craig loves to go through the books and choose them from the breeding and Frank prides himself on picking them on looks.  So between the two of them they picked out Reactor Now.

Reactor Now

“He is a very natural athlete and pacer and even when I was long-reining him he was pacing.  But he was a big fellow and we knew he would take time – just probably not quite this much time!”

But it’s no surprise Wight has managed to put the polish on “Goose”, with her reputation for finding a way with problem horses.

“This group of owners are the same ones who had Frances Annie – aka ‘The Mad Trotter’,” she said.

“We had a five-horse truck and she needed all the dividers out and to travel on her own just to get her to the races. Once we got there, she needed spare stalls either side of her.

“Once the lease was up, the owners weren’t too keen on having her back immediately, so we have her out the back in foal (to Skyvalley).  She did test my patience, but she did win $100,000, so you never know!”

Reactor Now is entered in the Group 3 Victoria Sires Classic $40,000 for three-year-olds race at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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