While there were plenty of highs to come out of Cup Week, there were also a few lows, and one of them was the retirement of ‘crowd favourite’ Highview Tommy, who ran well down on his best in the New Zealand Cup on Tuesday.
“He has had a great career, but I think it is time to pull the pin. He just hasn’t been the ‘Tommy’ of old recently,” said his co-owner and biggest fan, Hazel van Opzeeland.
van Opzeeland purchased Highview Tommy out of the Ready-To-Run Sales as a two-year-old, and has been on the ride of her life ever since.
“I was working for Michael House at the time, he was preparing ‘Tommy’ for the sale and I fell in love with the horse,” recalled van Opzeeled. “I followed his progress the whole way through and even before I had purchased him, I claimed him as mine,” she laughed.
“Every time he worked the stable boys would joke to me saying your horse just went up $10,000 today Hazel.
“At the time, I was new to racing and I didn’t even know what that really meant but now I know it must have been because he was working so well.
“When I talked to Michael about buying him he said I don’t care what you do, just make sure you get Mark Purdon involved.”
So, that is exactly what van Opzeeland did, albeit not until the day before the sale.
“I was still a bit undecided and left it until the last minute. That was the first ever time I spoke with Mark Purdon.
The next day van Opzeeland and Purdon secured Highview Tommy, the quickest time trialist of the 2007 Ready-To-Run, for $200,000, before Phillip & Glenys Kennard came on board once returning from the Rugby World Cup.
“I had met Phillip and Glenys through their Micheal and Michelle House and their purchase of Fiery Falcon, who also went on to be a top horse, out of Micheal’s 2006 Ready-To-Run draft,” explained van Opzeeland.
Wind the clock forward a few months and the brilliant racing career of Highview Tommy had begun, starting from a modest two placings in Auckland and building to the heights of wins in the $100,000 Welcome Stakes and the$200,000 2YO Harness Jewels and placings in the Sales Series Open and Sires Stakes Final, this saw him crowned Two-Year-Old Male Pacer of the Year.
“He was only really ranked as Mark & Grant’s second best two-year-old earlier on behind Sir Clive, so Blair Orange got the drive on him and they managed to string up a wonderful association,” explained van Opzeeland.
As a three-year-old ‘Tommy’ placed third in the 3YO Sires Stakes’ Final and second in the 3YO Sales Series Open, with Stunin Cullen the fly in ‘Tommy’s ointment, but it wasn’t long before the bulky black son of Bettor’s Delight kicked back, winning the $50,000 Southern Supremacy Final in record time.
“It was a big thrill to take ‘Tommy’ home to Southland and win the Southern Supremacy and the Invercargil Cup,” said van Opzeeland. “I’ve become very good friends with the Clark family who bred Tommy, and it was wonderful for them.
Highview Tommy is a first foal from his dam Baptism Of Fire (Christian Cullen), while he was also the first horse bred by Riverton's Allan Clark, a son of Highview Stud's Dave Clark.
"The story goes that Dave gave me Baptism Of Fire in return for the good work on the yearlings to get me started, but there was a bit more to it than that,” says Allan Clark
"She has certainly been a good start though," he added.
Baptism Of Fire’s next three foals were Highview Chartom (5 wins), Highview Chasue (4 wins), and Highview Teejay (5 wins), and van Opzeeland has been involved in the ownership of all three of them.
“I recently sold Highview Teejay, he is now with Grant Dixon in Queensland. Highview Freddy who sold at this year’s Yearling Sale for$122,000 is the first one from the family that I haven’t bought into.”
As an older horse, Highview Tommy was successful in the Superstars Champion, the Tuepeka Cup, the Invercargil Cup, the Manukau Summer Cup, the Interdominion Consolation, the Franklin Cup, and ofcourse the Group One Ballarat Cup, where he come flying down the outside to beat Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up at odds of $101.
“I wasn’t even there that night, but it was still so exciting and definitely has to be one of his career highlights.
“To beat horses of the calibre of Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up, who at the time, were right on top of their game, was absolutely amazing.”
Highview Tommy, who also has dual New Zealand Cup placings on his resume, cracked $1 million-dollars in stake earning earlier on in the season when being trained by Greg & Nina Hope, who trained the entire for the last eight starts of his 104 start career at Woodend Beach, in an attempt to get him back to his best form.
“One of the things I am very proud of is that he won $100,000 every season from when he was two-years-old to seven-years-old,” proclaimed van Opzeeland. “There are plenty of horses that win $100,000 as a two or three-year-old or a $100,000 as an older horse, but not many that do that right the way through their career,” she clarified.
On a personal note, one of my favourite memories of the horse that rocked a mohawk haircut was his staggering win on Cup Day of 2009, when he blitzed his rivals in a time of 3-08.5, equalling the 2600m New Zealand Record of Desperate Comment.
Van Opzeeland said that she is still unsure where Highview Tommy will be standing at stud next season, but with her involvement at Woodlands, I would have it as the $1.50 favourite.
*Video attached: Highview Tommy winning on Cup Day in New Zealand record time.
By Mitchell Robertson