In Melbourne.--- Where usually there would have been harness racing’s most boisterous laugh, yesterday there were tears. Because for part-owner John Devlin, Ideal Scott’s victory in the A$100,000 Breeders Crown at Melton, was the most poignant of his life in racing.
Devlin watched his long-striding pacer remain unbeaten this Australian campaign by fighting off fellow Auckland pacer Besotted in the male four-year-old pace.
It signals Ideal Scott as one of bright young things in Australian harness racing, a genuine Miracle Mile or Victoria Cup contender.
But Devlin knows he may not get to see those races even if Ideal Scott makes it to the start.
He is fighting a brutal battle with cancer and even the eternal optimist admits the dreaded disease might be winning.
“Things aren’t good,” said Devlin as the tears welled in his eyes during the presentation.
“That is why I get so bloody emotional. It’s not good.” Those closest to Devlin know the prognosis and knew that yesterday’s win was special, trying to hand him the enormous Breeders Crown trophy, which he was a little too weak to carry.
Devlin is one of the great characters of Australasian harness racing, a lovable larrikin whose constant smart jibes mask a razor-sharp mind and one of the greatest knowledge bases in racing.
He has been a successful journalist, owner, breeder, agent and tried his hand at almost everything else he could in racing.
But Devlin’s biggest expertise has been in socialising, at which he could lay claim to being the king of New Zealand racing, admittedly among a very talented field.
Ideal Scott has now won four races since joining NSW’s all-conquering Team McCarthy but yesterday’s was his closest call.
He had to kick up to hold the lead when challenged early and then was all out in the straight to hold out Besotted, who produced the run of the race after sitting parked and deserved better.
But like anybody who knows anything about harness racing, the connections on Besotted won’t begrudge Ideal Scott the win because of Devlin alone.
Earlier in the day, champion NSW filly Frith made it 15 wins from 16 starts this season taking out the three-year-old divisions so well many locals were questioning whether she could have been beat New Zealand’s superstar filly Adore Me, who dodged the series.
The pair are unlikely to meet anytime soon, with Sydney in March the most likely time, but it is certainly a rarity to have two fillies with such dominant records on either side of the Tasman, especially in this era when they would usually meet
By Michael Guerin
Courtesy of Hrness Racing New Zealand