Day At The Track

Pinery Fire survivor racing with Valour

05:58 PM 27 Jul 2017 NZST
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A standardbred pacer who was only 10 minutes from a likely horrific death will, on Saturday night, at Globe Derby Park, pace for victory in one of South Australia’s juvenile classics.

Clarenden Valour, owned and trained by Claire Goble, will come from gate one in the $50,000 Group Two 2017 UBET Two-Year-Old Colts & Geldings Southern Cross final (1800m).

However, if not for the courage, and care, of Goble and her partner Dennis Lyle who run Clarenden Standardbreds at Wasleys, the story could be completely different with the two-year-old escaping being badly burnt which almost certainly would have cost his life.

On the morning of November 25, 2015, Clarenden Valour, had just turned one, and was happy living with one other horse in an eight-acre paddock, covered in grass two feet high, on the Clarenden property. It was a hot day with strong winds gusting between 50-90 kmh.

Around noon, at Pinery, in the Lower Mid North of South Australia, some 40km from Wasleys, a fire started fanned by the strong winds.

Dennis Lyle said he was aware of the fire but never thought it would reach his property.

“As the reports saying the fire was in fact blowing our way, Claire came home from her work at Trinity College and we decided to bring the horses in to a laneway area between the paddocks where the racehorses were kept and there was no undergrowth,” Lyle said.

“Clarenden Valour had been handled but not broken in and proved hard to catch.

“The horses weren’t helped by the strong winds which had the trees bending in the breeze and a shade cloth breaking loose and flapping about. It seemed like we were about there for an hour but it was probably only about 20 minutes but we finally got them where we wanted.”

Lyle said a worker from a nearby piggery saw he and Goble were home and drove into their property and warned them the fire was only 10 minutes away and coming fast.

Goble got into her car and drove away but Lyle went back into the house to grab something.

“I was only in for a few minutes but when I came out the fire had taken to the trees which lined our driveway making it impossible to drive out so I went back inside and waited. It was the scariest time of my life.”

Thick smoke blanketed Clarenden Standardbreds as the fire roared through, with flames reported as being 25 feet high.

“I couldn’t see anything through the smoke except for red embers from the fire. After 20 minutes, the smoke started to clear and I could go outside to see the damage.

“Trees, and our hay shed, were burning, the fences were gone but fortunately, our house and stable paddocks were okay and so too were the horses in the laneway. Had we not moved them, I fear they would be been badly burnt as the paddock was burnt to the ground.

“The smoke did badly affect the horses’ eyes but luckily our vet Toby Ryan came later in the day to treat them.”

Lyle said Clarenden Valour had been taken to the property of Peter Ashby to recuperate while Clarenden Hustler, which is in the Group 2 $50,000 Ubet Three-Year-Old Colts and Geldings Southern Cross final (2230m) on Saturday, had been in the stables and he went to David Battye’s farm.

Clarenden Valour has emerged as one of the state’s better two-year-olds with two wins and four placings from nine starts.

The gelding was the fastest of the three Ubet Southern Cross heat winners last Friday at Globe Derby Park and will start from gate one in the final with Wayne Hill to drive.

UBETmarkets have Clarenden Valour quoted as a $9 chance with the favourite the Emma Stewart-trained That’s Perfect, which will come from gate two, at $1.40.

Lyle, a keen form student, said he believed Clarenden Valour was drawn to run well.

“I believe last week proved his best chance is to sit on the speed and from gate one he should get a good trail. Whether he is good enough we will find out on Saturday.”

Graham Fischer

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