Day At The Track

LYELL CREEK FAREWELL FEATURE

02:19 AM 04 May 2005 NZST
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Statistics don’t always capture the true spirit of a champion racehorse.

Especially if the horse’s name is Lyell Creek, but they nevertheless unearth some aspects of his career that will impress his every day fans as much as the purists and academics.

Believe it or not, Lyell Creek has had 14 starts at 3000 (THREE THOUSAND) metres or more and remains unbeaten.

Ten of those wins have been over the extreme trip of 3200 metres. He has also posted two wins over 3020 metres at Moonee Valley and another two there over 3050 metres.

Lyell Creek’s incredible record over the longer journeys embraces three Rowe Cup wins and as many in the Dominion Handicap, the two major metric two milers (3200 metres) for trotters in New Zealand harness racing.

His career tally of 56 wins includes nine in Australia where he has only been beaten once. Gold and Gold downed him by a nose at Moonee Valley on 18 December 2004.

Taking into account that some overseas earnings were not officially converted before that concept was introduced, his official earnings stand at $2,959,952.

Victory in his career farewell in Friday night’s Group One $100,000 Pacific Sheet and Coil Rowe Cup would officially see him break the $3 million barrier, to $3,020,752 in fact.

Statistics serve as a graphic illustration that staying races from a stand are the sheet anchor of Lyell Creek who boasts an official USA mile record of 1.52.4.

Victory in the Rowe Cup would boost his Group One tally to 16.

That score partly explains why part-owner and regular driver Anthony Butt has a remarkable Group One tally of 64 wins for a 37-Year-Old who only began driving in September 1983.

Take A Moment (14), Blossom Lady (6), Under Cover Lover (6) and Pullover Brown (4) have been other multiple and high-profile Group One winners for the polished reinsman who probably knows Lyell Creek better than any.

Driver Butt, speaking from Auckland on Wednesday (May 4), said Lyell Creek worked “quite good’’ on Monday and, while Wednesday’s work was not spectacular, it was nevertheless “adequate enough, in fact I was quite happy again.’’

Butt added: “He seems alright but he is starting to feel his age a bit.’’

Many may not realise Creek The Freak qualified as a pacer a month before he qualified as a trotter. He had one trial as a 2-Year-Old pacer and was beaten by 27.5 lengths!

Lyell Creek qualified as a trotter at his third attempt as a 4-Year-Old when prepared by Mark Smith, of Kaikoura, and driven by youthful Jamie Gameson.

The virtually unheard of son of Roydon Glen clocked 3.16.8 for the 2400 metres stand. It was a humble and low-key introduction of what was to come in the seven years ahead.

His raceday debut resulted in a fifth to Sunvette on Cup Day at Addington in 1997.

Lyell Creek has often been dubbed the people’s horse and the same applies to drivers.

Harness Racing New Zealand Information Manager Andrew Morris delved into the old war horse’s record for Harnesslink and revealed that reinsmen in most parts of the harness racing world have experienced the thrill of winning with him.

The successful band includes USA legend John Campbell, the second most successful driver behind Lyell Creek with nine North American triumphs at the Meadowlands, Woodbine Raceway and Mohawk Raceway.

Ron Pierce, Chris Christoforou and Paul MacDonnell were other North American drivers to land him a winner.

Swedish reinsman Torbjorn Jansson is the only Scandanavian driver to have scored with him.

Current World Driving champion Mark Jones won with him in Canada and Cantabrian Andrew McPherson is another from New Zealand’s Mainland to taste success with the country’s most idolised standardbred since the world’s first million dollar winner, Southland-bred and developed pacer Cardigan Bay.

New Zealand’s own Gene Robb might have good cause to regret his one-time association with the trotting freak at Addington in February 1999 when the gelding took no part in a junior drivers race.

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