Grand old champion Village Kid passes away

12:19 AM 24 Apr 2012 NZST
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The legendary Village Kid
The legendary Village Kid - on his 30th birthday.

Champion pacer Village Kid died this morning (Tuesday April 24) on the property of his part-owner and harness racing trainer trainer Bill Horn. He was 31. The son of Gramatan had lived at the property for the past 27 years.

The following extract is taken from the notes prepared prior to Village Kid's induction into the Western Australian Racing Industry Hall of Fame in 2010.

Village Kid was foaled on 4th December 1980 on the outskirts of Auckland and began his career on 2nd November 1983 when he broke in the mobile score-up and finished a distant 11th in a race won by a non-descript pacer called Illingworth. Illingworth was to never win another race.

Village Kid won at each of his second, third and fourth race starts and before a series of failures and when he failed to regain his early form after a spell Village Kid became one of dozens of horses on the market in New Zealand.

Perth farrier Dudley Anderson spotted the raw boned gelding while on holiday in New Zealand and suggested to trainer Bill Horn that if he bought the horse to Perth he was pretty sure he could fix the horse's shoeing and turn him into a decent pacer.

Village Kid was bought for a little over $36,000 Australian dollars and he remains the best horse sold to Australia from New Zealand. He commenced racing in Western Australia as a 4yo in 1984.

After a win at Pinjarra in November 1984, Village Kid first came to notice in Perth when he beat Morano Magic in the 1984 Romeo Hanover Pace. His trainer Bill Horn made people sit up and wonder when he nominated the then M1 Class horse for the 1985 WA Pacing Cup.

Village Kid won a prelude and final of the Cup beating a very short-priced favourite Preux Chevalier in the final. Preux Chevalier exacted his revenge a few weeks later with victory over Village Kid in the 1985 Inter Dominion final in Melbourne.

Village Kid owns the greatest winning sequence in Australian harness history when he won 19 successive races between 20th February 1987 and 13th February 1988. San Simeon may have won 29 in succession, all of Village Kid's 19 wins that year came in fast-class races.

The first win in the sequence came in the $25,000 Mount Eden Sprint and the other 18 wins included four Group One races in the Australian Pacing Championship, NSW M H Treuer Memorial, WA Pacing Cup and Fremantle Pacing Cup along with a James Brennan Cup, WA Easter Cup, WA Media Guild Cup, Bunbury Cup along with a couple of heats of the Australian Pacing Championship and a prelude of the Victorian Winfield Cup.

Village Kid shares the record of four WA Pacing Cup wins with another legend in Pure Steel but he may have won five successive WA Cups had a malfunction not caused the 1987 WA Pacing Cup to be re-drawn after Village Kid had originally drawn barrier one in the elite field.

The electronically operated fireworks draw malfunctioned after Village Kid's connections had fired up barrier one. After a series of threats of legal action and open revolt from some of the other owners, Gordon and Celecia Cox and Bill and Norma Horn agreed to putting the coveted pole position barrier back into the hat and to the conduct of a re-draw.

Village Kid drew barrier six in the re-draw and he was forced to race outside star South Australian speedster Whirley Dream throughout the 2500 metres. He was a sitting duck for the sit-and-sprint horse Our Ian Mac who landed some sizable bets in defeating Whirley Dream and Village Kid.

Village Kid's 5yo, 6yo, 7yo and 8yo seasons saw him acknowledged as the best pacer in the Southern Hemisphere across each season.

From the time Village Kid turned 4yo until the end of his 8yo season he had 100 starts for 70 wins and 22 placings.

During this period he was twice voted Australian Harness Horse of the Year and was the first horse to be voted Australian Aged Pacer of the Year on three occasions.

Village Kid is one of only two horses to have won four WA Pacing Cups and he is the only Western Australian pacer to have won two NSW Miracle Miles and won a total of 13 Group One races - more than any other Western Australian pacer.

He won nine Grand Circuit finals and thirteen Group One status races including all three heats and final of the 1986 Brisbane Inter Dominion series. As an 8yo Village Kid became the first and to date the only horse to win all three heats of an Inter Dominion twice when he achieved the feat in the 1989 Perth championship. Some of his rivals in the championship that year were half his age.

Village Kid retired as the richest standardbred in Australasia and the twelfth richest pacer in the world.

Village Kid was the fastest horse in Australia in 1986, 1988 and 1989 and when he time-trialled in 1:55.1 as a 13yo he not only bettered the World Record for a horse of his age he also became the first horse in Western Australia to run four successive sub 30 second quarters over a mile.

Village Kid remains the only horse to win all three heats of an Inter Dominion Series twice and one of only three Western Australian horses to go through the heats of an Inter Dominion undefeated.

Village Kid retired as the world's richest pacing gelding with a career record of 160 starts for 93 wins, 24 seconds and 12 thirds for stakes of $2,117,870.He was also the richest Standardbred in Australasia and the twelfth richest pacer in the world when he finished racing.

His winning percentage across 160 starts of 58.1% betters all other horses with more than 100 career starts including other champions such as Pure Steel 52.8%, Gammalite 52.5% and Hondo Grattan 50.0%.

Village Kid's story is more than a remarkable statistical achievement. It is the story of a truly amazing equine athlete. He was possessed of an incredible will to race against and to beat the very best. He flew in the face of all the evidence that suggested that his career ought to have ended five or six years earlier than it eventually did.

by Michael RADLEY

Village Kid winning the 1987 Miracle Mile:

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