By Kristen Manning
It was this time last year that Cranbourne trainer Greg Eurell—a highly respected horseman with a history of Olympic show jumping achievement—laid the foundations to Tatts W. S. Cox Plate (Aus-I) success with his talented mare Pinker Pinker.
Telling anyone who asked that the daughter of unbeaten Zabeel stallion Reset was something a bit special, he did not mess around stepping up through the grades. The bay raced only once at the provincials before rising to city class at only her second outing and duly winning.
Last spring Pinker Pinker, who at that stage had had just the two runs, contested a Flemington fillies event first up and was too strong—impressing her connections to the extent that the rest of her campaign was all conducted at stakes level.
Not quite as mature as the better fillies of her time, she was not in the placings—although never far away. But by autumn of this year she had filled out and matured, winning twice at group level en route to a game third in the Patinack Farm AJC Australian Oaks (Aus-I).
It was that run, Pinker Pinker having done a bit of work out wide, that put on display the filly’s toughness, giving the stable confidence that the shorter 2,040-meter trip of the Cox Plate—a race traditionally won by a horse with strength and heart—would suit.
And so Pinker Pinker embarked on a Cox Plate campaign, despite no assurances that, without any form at weight-for-age, she would actually get a run.
In fact right up to acceptance time on the morning of Oct. 18 there were doubts, part-owner Julie Gazdowicz confessing that “we really didn’t think she’d get in!”
Just beaten in one of the best form races of the spring—the Spotless W. H. Stocks Stakes (Aus-II) before a game second in the Racingnetwork.com.au Epsom Handicap (Aus-I), Pinker Pinker had solid lead-up form but not of the ilk usually high regarded by form analysts in relation to the Cox Plate.
But, settling nicely for Craig Williams—on a confidence high after a BMW Caulfield Cup (Aus-I) success aboard Southern Speed—Pinker Pinker enjoyed one of the better Cox Plate trips and once clear at the top of the straight was able to mow down second favourite Jimmy Choux, who had taken a clear lead. He was not there for long, Pinker Pinker picking him up in a couple of strides before racing clear to a soft 1.3-length victory.
“That was fantastic!” Williams enthused. “Basically I just trusted her and took the runs when they came. She just lifted when I asked her to. She’s just so tough and so honest.”
“When I asked her to be really tough in between horses she was game and when she came out I thought ‘now we’ve got to chase down Jimmy Choux’ but once I asked her to extend she was never going to be in any doubt… she won with ease.”
Eurell, who has enjoyed his finest racing moments with the now retired champion sprinter Apache Cat, was clearly moved—“it is taking a bit of time to absorb,” he said, keen to pay tribute to his mare.
“Apache was a marvel, so good to me. To have a horse to rival him is more than I could have hoped for,” Eurell said. “But I have one and she’s amazing!”
“She’s been the ultimate professional all the way through,” he added. “In fact, she’s a tribute to professionalism!”
Bred in Victoria by Bill Giovas and Craig Gordon, Pinker Pinker is the second group I winner for Reset, whose recently retired son Rebel Raider raced away with the 2008 AAMI Victoria Derby.
She is the second foal produced by the dual city-winning Success Express mare Miss Marion from a family best known for its sprinters, including the group I Karrakatta Plate (a 1,200-meter juvenile event in Perth) winner Golden Unicorn.
A $120,000 yearling, Pinker Pinker is raced by the Kirby family who have been breeding and racing horses in Victoria for more than three decades. They have thoroughly enjoyed the ride the mare has taken them on. In the weeks leading up to the Cox Plate, they knocked back several offers for her.
“For Dad it has been his hobby,” said David Kirby’s daughter Julie Gazdowicz. “It has never been about the money. We got a phone call from someone wanting to buy her off us, and they offered a really good price. Dad just said ‘she is not for sale.’”
With a winner’s circle crowded with David, his wife Carol, their children and grandchildren, it was certainly a family affair—the Kirbys also knocking back an offer from someone to buy a share.
“She is a family horse and that’s how he wanted to keep it,” Gazdowicz said.
Carol Kirby was as emotional post-race as Eurell, whose eyes were glistening, said “we started with horses when were in our thirties and now we’ve won a race like this in our seventies...I can’t believe it!”