Day At The Track

General ready to battle

08:00 AM 16 Apr 2021 NZST
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General Dodge, Harness racing
General Dodge
Stuart McCormick Photo

General Dodge could well have earned the nickname ‘general soreness’ so often has Mick Chircop’s super-talented pacer been cruelly sidelined by illness or injury, but optimism in the camp is high ahead of his return at Geelong on Saturday night.

The eight-year-old will contest the TAB Captain Sandy Free For All at 8.30pm, when he will step out against the likes of favourite Pacifico Dream, Reactor Now and Im Anothermasterpiece.

With 12 wins from 17 starts, General Dodge’s both the most lightly-raced and oldest horse in the $24,000 pace, but his trainer is optimistic he can leave the ills of his past behind.

“He’s pretty close,” Chircop told SENTrack’s Trots Life. “He had his last hobble today and I just gave him a little slip up the last quarter and he went from 10-foot tall to five-foot, he really bottomed down and felt like he was jogging. He stretched out nicely.

“Too right he can (win). I’ve written him off in some races where he’s just too far back and he’s surprised me. Dad (Phil) will be working his horses and something will come up along side him when he’s jogging and he will just switch on – he’s a competitive beast.”

He's shown that throughout his 17 starts, which include an eight-race winning streak that had him enter the 2017 Vicbred Super Series final for four-year-old entires and geldings a $3.70 second favourite, shadowed only in the market by the eventual winner.

The latter was Soho Tribeca, who would go on to win $1.1 million in earnings, claiming a WA Pacing Cup and placing in a Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile.

Soho Tribeca is now at standing at Northern Rivers Equine, while General Dodge has had only six starts since, mostly during a 2018 winter campaign.

“He got this thing called liver fluke,” Chircop said. “It attacks the liver and is very hard to diagnose … because it’s more common in cattle and sheep, in horses it’s very rare.

“When he does get crook his immune system flattens out because of that.”

General Dodge then returned in 2020 and won at Melton before being checked in the February 21 Ararat Cup.

“After he got knocked over at (Ararat) he was showing a bit lame and I had to take him to the veterinary clinic, they did a bone scan, didn’t find too much wrong with him – just a deep-seated bruising,” Chircop said.

“They suggested to give him three months off, so I did that, brought him back and he was ready to almost race again. I trialled against Hurricane Harley and he trialled pretty good, then he ended up getting a pretty bad virus that caused his white cells to go very low.”

It was a particularly bitter blow, because it dashed Chircop’s dreams of a Grand Circuit start.

“It was very upsetting not making the Victoria Cup, because one of the owners passed away in Johnny Lorensini,” he said.

“He was in hospital … and I was trying to get him up for the Victoria Cup so he could have one last look at him. Not to be unfortunately.”

A further spell and then he returned and trialled “pretty good in February”, before he “tore a muscle in his back” which was another minor setback.

“Now I’ve got him back and he worked super the other day. I can’t get the work I’d like to get into him, in saying that he worked pretty super. I do two miles with him, just nice and steady,” Chircop said.

“I’ve had some nice horses, like The Warp Drive ($464,971), he’s right up there with them. When he does let down, I’ve looked at my clock sometimes and he’s done a 28.2 last quarter and it’s felt like a 31. It’s the way he just rolls along.

“At the trials, Jason Lee jumped on and until you drive this horse you don’t realise how good he is.”



HRV - Michael Howard

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