Kevin Ford and Will Atone won’t necessarily have their backs against the wall come the last race at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night having been marked the $3.20 second favourite.
But their journey to Victorian trotting HQ is a tale that surely has underdog written all over it.
The squaregaiting son of Conch Deville has only had four starts in his entire life. Rewind five months and he was only just making his debut as a seven-year-old.
It’s rare to see a horse emerge after so many years of failing to make it to the track, but a handful of encouraging trials back in 2010 meant his trainer couldn’t yet give up on him.
“He’s broken a few pedal bones, which is what has held him back,” Ford said.
“He did it just after he qualified at Maryborough so he was out for 12 months and when we brought him back in he did the same pedal bone in a different spot so he was out for another 12 months.”
The luck of breaking the same bone in a different place may have seemed almost uncanny but then Ford had to face another challenge.
After finding out the horse had sustained a non-healing fracture he was forced to have a screw inserted in his leg which subsequently was infected and all but spelled the end of his career before it had ever began.
“He was pretty much going to be finished then but Ian said ‘we’ll take the screw out and see what happens’ and I started working him two or three months after that,” Ford said.
“We’ve sort of rolled from of disaster to another but he worked up nice when I had Allrumour at the same stage and he always worked a bit better than her and she won a few races before she broke down.”
With the issues averted, they finally made it to the racetrack and albeit fleetingly, Will Atone has started to put together the potential he has always shown.
After being narrowly run down on debut, he galloped at his next start but managed to pick himself up for fourth.
A strong second two starts ago was followed by a break-out win at Ballarat just over a week ago.
And now the task doesn’t get any easier at Melton on Friday. Drawn the second line, it will be a new test for Ford and the eight-year-old
“He’s still pretty green and learning. I don’t trial him very much so if he holds together he should improve with the racing,” he said.
“We haven’t drawn the second row before but I think he’ll end up being a tougher horse, he just doesn’t have that hardness into him yet.”
by Blake Redden
Harness Racing Victoria