Day At The Track

A win that was just meant to "Bee"

04:00 PM 26 Aug 2019 NZST
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Tee Cee Bee Macray,Harness racing
A jubilant Greg Sugars waves the whip as he crosses the line with Tee Cee Bee Macray at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night
Ashlea Brennan photo

On a star-studded night featuring some of harness racing's most prestigious Group One and Group Two futurities, for pure emotion, it was hard to go past the performance of seven-year-old gelding Tee Cee Bee Macray at Melton on Saturday night.

The gifted but trouble-prone pacer scored his first win for more than two years in the only non-listed race on the program, the Always B Miki Breeders Crown Graduate Cup of $24,000 - but the sentiment could scarcely have been more poignant.

Tee Cee Bee Macray (Ponder-Wya Mya Macray (Pacific Fella) was "one of the favorites" of respected trainer the late Alan Tubbs and it's been the mission of his daughter Jess and son-in-law Greg Sugars to nurture the pacer back to winning form since Alan Tubbs' death.

"It's just amazing and it's one for dad!" a tearful Jess Tubbs, Tee Cee Bee Macray's trainer, said in a post-race interview.

"It's been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues but we've worked through them. The horse is a bit one-dimensional, but it all just worked out so well tonight," she said.

Tee Cee Bee Macray burst onto the scene as a three-year-old in the hands of Alan Tubbs, then won 12 of his first 20 starts, including a Vicbred Platinum final, and amassed career earnings of more than $200,000.

But the pacer was beset by health issues including a throat condition requiring surgery and a litany of ongoing unrelated infections. He was a constant challenge for the astute trainer, who died in October 2017 after enduring many years of kidney-related ill-health.

Jess Tubbs took over the training of the pacer, but admitted the challenge, at times, almost became too much.

"He had raw ability and he was dad's follow on horse from Melpark Major, so it always meant a lot to dad to get the best out of him, and so it became that way for us as well," she said

"By all rights the horse shouldn't really be here. It's been a long road but it's two years and 20 days exactly since his last win. That was one of dad's last wins, so this means a lot."

She said the pacer's nature was something of a double-edged sword.

"Dad spent an incredible amount of time with him. He walked him and spent a lot of time with him and probably spoiled him a bit. He is a bit of a brat and he's definitely a handful to deal with, but we just love him," she said.

"There's no nastiness about him, but he has brute strength, he's big and he doesn't care for opinions he doesn't agree with - like last night when we arrived at the track and went to get him out of the float, he just barged out backwards before we had a chance to get him undone and broke the new tie-ups.

"That's the kind of fellow he is. But to come back from what he's had to, that's how he's had to be.

"We've been so pleased with how he's been lately - so well in himself, so to have him win this race has just been a tremendous thrill."

Sugars drove the pacer to a nicety, sitting in the one-out, one-back position, then launching with a withering sprint in the straight. The usually-composed reinsman saluted in jubilation crossing the line, reflecting the depth of emotion attached to the victory.

Sugars said although the pacer had looked promising as a young horse, he was perhaps a victim of his early success, and his imposing presence on the track.

"He looked very promising, but he's never really been void of issues and to be fair, Tubbsy and I really didn't buy into the hype. We didn't think that he would carry (his form) against the very best in the country. He got pressure that he didn't really deserve and I think a lot of unfair criticism," he said.

"This mightn't be the biggest race in the world, but tonight it certainly feels like it!

"I would have given up just about every win this season just to get this one over the line."

Sugars said the new National Ratings system was serving horses such as Tee Cee Bee Macray well.

"He was just battling away against the top end horses and not only finding it hard to win but hard to earn - keeping him alive in the system was a bit of a challenge," he said.

"Without the change to the system, most likely this horse wouldn't be here this season and would have been retired."

Jess said retirement now seems a lot further off for Tee Cee Bee Macray, now that he's found form against a more suitable class of horse.

"But because of the way he is and looks, there's a line up of people who've put their hands up for him when he does finish racing," she said.

 

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR

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