Day At The Track

Casey having one hell of a season

10:27 AM 27 Apr 2015 NZST
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Trevor Casey - Has had a season as an owner that he will never forget
Trevor Casey - Has had a season as an owner that he will never forget
Harness racing most frequent high-flyer Trevor Casey set off for Sydney on Saturday brimming with confidence that Waikiki Beach can cap a memorable weekend by winning the A$322,000 APG Final at Menangle.
The champagne glasses had barely been put down after Friday night’s terrific wins at Alexandra Park by Stent in the $150,000 Rowe Cup and Sky Major in the $100,000 Messenger than Casey was getting a boarding call for his 11th flight to Australia this season to watch his burgeoning team of horses race.
And if Casey is right, and Waikiki Beach uses his great gate speed from the ace and leads all the way in the rich two-year-old final on Sunday afternoon it would put the seal on what is surely the most prolific winning season enjoyed by any Kiwi owner.
Casey, 54, struggles to recall every winner he’s cheered home but his best guess is that 17 horses, which he either owns outright or has shares in, have won 59 races since last August - 24 of them at home and 35 in Australia.
Some of them, like Stent, have been in his now familiar black and white colours sporting the Lone Star logo of the Riccarton restaurant he owns, the profits from which have seen his equine empire treble in the last nine years.
Others, like the Barry Purdon-trained Sky Major, he races with a big group, but are providing him with thrills of the like he’s never previously experienced.
But with 30 horses on the go at the moment, at varying stages of their preparations, he says he needs to be winning like he is to pay for all the training bills.
Then there’s the cost of looking after his seven well bred trotting broodmares and their seven weanlings which are now conveniently all together  on his Prebbleton property and on another 8ha over the road which he bought from Nevele R Stud to house them all.
‘‘Someone comes in to help feed and handle them but I’d see them daily,’’ says Casey who is sure all the handling helps them make a good early start as racehorses.
‘‘I’ve always had quite a few horses - but I’ve now been able to upgrade the quality rather than the quantity. And if they’re not good enough to race at two or three, where the big money is, I usually try to sell or lease them.’’
Casey is also culling three broodmares, Una Bromac, Shesachristian and Pita Pocket, who will go under the hammer at next month’s PGG Wrightson mixed sale in Christchurch- ‘‘you soon learn how quickly your numbers multiply.’’
Casey says he’s lucky Stent - the horse he named after having triple stenting of his aortic vessels five years ago - has won him $637,216 this season and $1,108,788 in all  ‘‘paying for all the others.’’
The Rowe Cup win, which Casey says trumps all Stent’s previous achievements, fulfilled his own lifelong ambition and that of trainer Colin de Filippi.
‘‘Winning the Great Southern Star was impressive but this is the best win I’ve ever had. He’s a super, super trotter, just something else.’’
In his victory speech Casey took great pleasure in pointing out to the knockers who claimed Stent couldn’t stay that he had just won the country’s premier staying race in 4:03.5, only 0.6s outside Stylish Monarch’s New Zealand record.
Stent’s season earnings of $637,216 have now passed those of the retired champ I Can Doosit ($621,764) and leave him second only to trotting’s all time ‘‘Freak’’ Lyell Creek who banked $658,325 in 2000-2001, when unbeaten in 14 starts, before campaignng in the northern hemisphere.
Casey beams when he is reminded Stent is now a shoe-in to be named trotter of the year on both sides of the Tasman.
‘‘It’s still only a hobby, but it’s become a large hobby,’’ says Casey who has recently sold his other horsepower hobby, a  Harley Davidson motorcycle, because he no longer has time to ride it.
‘‘ I really enjoy my racing and it occupies all my time now. I’m sponsoring quite a few races, and the Australasian junior drivers’ champs coming up, and I love to watch my horses go round.’’
Casey’s Facebook followers always know when he’s on the move, his postings from Melbourne and Sydney alerting his friends to his latest conquests.
Horses have always pressed Casey’s buttons, right from his days as a teenager when he started helping out at Tommy Knowles’ Kumeu stables in the early 1970s.
Where his passion for racing came from he’s not sure given none of his three brothers or two sisters liked horses - ‘‘but there were always horses around us in Kumeu.’’
Casey even took out a training licence for a few years in his early 20s,  training a winner, the dual gaited Speculate, to win a $1500 trot at Kumeu in 1985.
But when Casey became friends with local trainer Jim Cole he no longer needed a licence and from then on he left the training up to the professionals.
These days champion trainer Mark Purdon is his main man, but Casey also has a few with de Filippi, Tony Herlihy, Bruce Negus and one with Amber Hoffman.
It was on a trip to Melbourne in 2014 that Casey, his mate Neil Pilcher, Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen bought Waikiki Beach.
Having just sold a baby by Somebeachsomewhere named Assassinator to Perth, they were looking to replace him with another by the same sire.
A colt out of Cyclone Betty fitted the bill and they got him for $50,000.
It didn’t take Purdon long to discover he had a beautiful gait but when he wasn’t quite ready for the Young Guns series in Auckland earlier this year, and ‘‘started to get a bit colty’’ Purdon gelded him and turned him out.
Waikiki Beach came back to a winning debut in February and is now four from four and a raging favourite to win today after a super impressive semi-final win in 1:56.1.
‘‘He has gate speed and I thought if he drew one to five there was a very good chance of his leading. But now, from one, he should lead easily,’’ Casey said.
Casey is hoping Waikiki Beach can win the rich final, just like Mr Nickel did for his partner Neil Pilcher three years ago, and go on to take the  Breeders’ Challenge and Breeders’ Crown.
They would be thrills that would rate right up with Pocaro’s Jewels win, Escapee’s two derbies, Mah Sish’s Hunter Cup or Arya’s Breeders Crown.
But if it all goes bad, like the night Pocaro had the 2009 Northern Trotting Derby all sewn up but galloped 50 metres out, Casey will just shrug and move on.
If he’s learned anything over the years it’s that you have to be a good loser. ‘‘You have a lot more losses than wins. I’m never over-confident. So long as they race well, and pull up good, you have to be happy.’’ 
Trevor Casey has lost count of the number of wins he’s enjoyed this season but we’ve done the maths for him. 17 horses, that he either owns outright or has shares in, have won 59 races
Stent      8
Lazarus  4
Hot Pants 3
Waikiki Beach 2
Messini   1
Sluggem   1
Ygritte       1
Bonechip    1
Madam Simone 1
Eilish Aimee 1
Sky Major   1
Hand Of The King 6
Arya     6
Stent     5
Sky Major 4
Daenerys Targaryen 4
Sun Of Anarchy 4
Messini 2
Waikiki Beach 2
Saratoga 1
Crusader Acey 1
Courtesy of Barry Lichter
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