It's a measure of how steeled John Curtin is to let Auckland Reactor do his own talking now, that he hasn't until today revealed the trials and tribulations which beset the champ's last campaign.
But in a week when bookies installed eeThe Reactor'' a firm favourite for November's New Zealand Trotting Cup, and trainer Mark Purdon wound the screws a little tighter on his six-strong team, the managing part-owner let down his guard just a little.
eeIt would be nice to go through a year with this horse and have nothing go wrong,'' Curtin said of the season ahead, when the Reactor will be racing for stakes of $4.5 million on the grand circuit.
Few knew the real reason why was beaten in his last start, March's Interdominion Grand Final in Perth, and never fronted for the Golden Mile at Menangle in April.
That's because Curtin has done a 180-degree turn and made it his business to refrain from public post mortems, where anything sounding like an excuse could be latched on to by the horse's knockers.
And it's also the reason why you won't hear Curtin making any brash statements about the Reactor before the cup, when in the past he has always been very vocal about how good he believes the pacer is.
But it's hard for Curtin to hide the stress he went through afterbeat only two home in the Inters Final, a failure which left even driver Anthony Butt stunned, given how dominating the horse was in winning all three of his heats.
eeAnts said he couldn't believe it was the same horse when he suddenly stopped turning for home, but we knew something was wrong when he heaved for 90 minutes after the race,'' Curtin said.eeThe snot was pouring out of his nose the next morning and I was nearly knocked over when the vet pulled a blood and said he had contracted EVA.''
Curtin said that, to this day nobody, not even veterinary experts, had been able to explain how the horse tested negative to Equine Viral Arteritis on arrival in Perth, but positive on leaving.
eeHow could he catch EVA there -there's never been a case recorded in Australia since they cracked down on it in the 1980s. It threw up all sorts of connotations and nobody could give me an answer.
eeBut it had the hair standing up on the back of my neck, I can tell you.''
Curtin knows better than anyone else what EVA is - it ruined him in the mid 80s.
After paying US$500,000 for the stallion, and being unable to get him into the country when it was discovered he was an EVA shedder, it sent Curtin Farms to the wall.
No amount of lobbying among Government MPs could get the restrictions lifted, even though the disease had symptoms of nothing more than a bad cold.
Curtin said he was eenearly going out of his tree'' whenwas strung up in Sydney for six weeks on the way home, still testing positive.
It was May 22 before he gained a veterinary clearance from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service after tests showed he was not shedding EVA in his semen.
eeThat would've been a disaster for his stud career - I couldn't have brought him back to New Zealand and it would have stopped a lot of people breeding to him.''
The travel glitch saw Paul Fitzpatrick, who prepared him for the Golden Mile at Menangle.stabled for two months with leading trainer
But two weeks before the race, the horse trialled badly and it was discovered he had an epiglottic entrapment, which required minor surgery at Sydney University.
The setback, not related to the Reactor's earlier soft palate problem which wrecked his American campaign, saw him miss the Mile and return home to Purdon for a rest.
eeBut he's had a good spell and never had a better preparation so hopefully we will have no problems this time.''
Curtin has good reason to be shy of the unexpected.
's bid at last year's Interdominions in Auckland was dashed when he was struck by the killer bug colitis X.
And his otherwise great lead-up to last year's New Zealand Cup, when he won first-up and later annihilated his cup rivals in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton, came unstuck when a foot injury ruled him out of the race.
eeMaybe this will be the year he hits his straps. Smoken Up were eight when they were at their best.''and
AUCKLAND REACTOR is coming to hand well, but don't expect to see him race until the end of the month, says trainer Mark Purdon.
Purdon saidwas still quite big in condition and would need a couple of trials before racing.
eeHe's had a lot of ground work but he just needs to get his race fitness.''
The Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup on September 28, at Addington, was looking a likely first target.
Purdon is preparing six pacers for the cup and says Major Mark is the most forward of them.
eeHe could line up in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru next Sunday.''
Purdon said he believed Major Mark was poised to make up for a disappointing four-year-old season when he became too colty.
eeWe gelded him at the end of last season and gave him three months off and he's had a really good foundation -his work has been very good.''
Purdon said Sleepy Tripp, who has not raced for 18 months, was doing well in his comeback after being struck down by a rare condition.
eeWe found a cyst in his stifle, which is quite uncommon, and he needed two operations. He had six months off after the first one, but it wasn't a success and he quickly went sore.
eeBut the second operation seems to have worked.''
Purdon said a decision on where new Aussie import Sushi Sushi stepped out would depend on how he handled a standing start in his next trial - he has yet to face the tapes on raceday.
Purdon has no immediate plans for Breeders' Crown winner Fly Like An Eagle, or last year's cup placegetter Highview Tommy,who is still eebig and round''.
THE KEY CUP LEAD-UP RACES
$25,000 Hannon Memorial Grp III September 16 Oamaru
$25,000 New Brighton Cup Grp III September 28 Addington ššš
$35,000 Methven Cup Grp III October7 Methven
$25,000 Canterbury Classic Grp III October12 Addington ššš
$60,000 Flying Stakes Grp II October 22 Ashburton
$50,000 Kaikoura Cup Grp II October29 Kaikoura
šššAutomatic entry races
- RETRAVISION INTER DOMINION HEAT 1 (SKY 1)
Courtesy of Barry Lichter of The Sunday Star Times