Day At The Track

Trainer sat on roof watching horses drown

11:42 PM 12 Jan 2011 NZDT
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The big hearted Clive Palmer Accomplished reinsman Murray Sullivan Murray Sullivan in happier times
The big hearted Clive Palmer - and his life-saving helicopter.
Accomplished reinsman Murray Sullivan - doing what he does best.
Murray Brown Facebook photo
Murray Sullivan in happier times
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"This is the worst day of my life! I'm sitting on my roof watching horses and cows drown in front of me as they get washed away. I'm about to lose everything. I am very upset. I hope I survive." Those heartfelt words were posted on Facebook by Queensland harness racing trainer and driver, Murray Sullivan junior just moments before his blackberry phone died.

The Cold Mountain horseman had hardly any battery life left on his cell phone and Facebook was his only communication to the world. He wanted his family and friends to know that his life was in jeopardy because of the rising waters in the Queensland floods.

For 13 hours (4pm Tuesday to 5am Wednesday) Sullivan, his dog 'Diesel' and two fellow Cold Mountain employees watched the water levels rise as they clung to their lives on a house roof top.

"The water got to within a metre or two of us when we were saved by Clive (Palmer). The emergency services said they couldn't get to us because they had more urgent cases to deal with. When they said they could come and free us at 10am Clive's chopper had got there first. I owe my life to him," Sullivan said.

Palmer is Sullivan's boss. According to Sullivan Palmer saved up to 60 people who were stranded on roof tops.

"I will never ever forget what Clive did for me. I owe my life to him. I will definitely be returning to work for him but for now I can't face what is there. The water has subsided but the thought of cleaning up the carcasses of horses I loved so much would be too much for me to take right now.

"Clive has given me two weeks off so I'm going to head home (New South Wales) and clear my head. This won't put me off though. I will bounce back. I love harness racing and it's all I want to do," the gutsy 22-year-old said.

Sullivan, who only joined the Cold Mountain staff last year, hoped a miracle would happen and his favourite little horse Cold Shark treaded water enough to survive the ordeal.

"He was my favourite pacer. He was only three and won one of his four races but potentially I believed he was the best horse I had trained. I told everyone that. I drove him to win on debut on the Gold Coast last month. It would tear me up inside if he has gone," Sullivan said.

However Sullivan does know he's lost some quality pacers. He predicted 32 horses perished.

These include Cam's Card Shark 5-year-old Genuwine, a former American, who also campaigned in New Zealand last season. Sullivan drove him to his last victory also on the Gold Coast on December 10.

That entire raced 61 times for 14 wins, 17 placings and won $322,494 in career stakes. His quickest mile, recorded as a 2-year-old was 1:50.4.

Fancy Card Shark, who was also by Cams Card Shark (1:54.2), was also lost. He won 19 of his 114 starts and $106,388. He raced just last Saturday finishing second behind Dash of Class at Albion Park.

Eden Burst, who also raced in New Zealand, was also lost. The Safety Patrol gelding went 1:53 in the United States. He won seven of his 59 starts and placed 22 times for $82,714.

"I'm still in a bit of shock about it all. It's very surreal. I can't believe it has happened. I'm gana get on the road and drive 12 hours to New South Wales very soon to get away from it all and try and put everything in perspective," said Sullivan, who had seven standardbreds in work.

He said the tragedy really sank in when he was transported to the Lowood Community Hall after being saved by the helicopter.

"I had to borrow $20 to buy thongs, a towel and a shirt. Everything else I owned was lost. I'll never forget seeing horses battle for their lives in front of me. It was an awful thing to watch. Some were trying to tread water but were losing the battle."

Once back at the Community Hall Sullivan was able to restore life into his cell phone and let his family and friends know that he had survived the ordeal.

"Within 10 minutes of posting a message on Facebook I had so many visitors turn up offering me food, money and accommodation. I also had hundreds of messages on Facebook from well-wishes.

"I'd like to thank everyone for the support they showed me. It was so rewarding to know that harness racing family cared so much for me. I'll never forget their words and kind gestures. I am so humbled by it all. It overwhelmed me so much," Sullivan said.

By Duane RANGER (editor)

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