Strike the Stars is plain looking sort of thoroughbred who was born all the way back in 2009, the year that Shocking won The Cup, despite the best efforts of it’s jockey Corey Brown to prevent it from doing so by putting in a shocker of a ride and keeping his mount three wide for the trip.
Shocking’s win was the last time until Michelle Payne and her 100-1 shot Prince of Penzance came along that a horse that had raced exclusively In Australia throughout it’s career would win the big one, and buoyed by the Aussie’s success rich punters dreaming on one day owning a Cup winner themselves splashed cash my the millions a few months later at the blue-riband Inglis thoroughbred yearling sale.
A striking young colt later to be named Godspeed was the top lot in the sales, attracting a final bid of a staggering $1.875 million dollars. The expensive colt turned out to be a legless camel, winning just two races at the low-brow tracks of Mornington and Canberra during its short career promising the world and delivering nothing, recouping it’s owners a grand total of $58 000 in prize money for their near $2 million spend.
It must have been a bad-luck year for the big spenders, because the 2nd top lot, a regally bred filly named Crystalised which sold for $1.3 million, turned out to be a donkey as well, with the young four-legged lottery entrant earning a grand total of just $43 790 during its three seasons making crabs look like cougars on the track.
Given the far from outstanding careers of the top sellers at the sale, the new owners of lot number 285, a bay colt by 2004 Cox Plate winner and Victorian Derby runner-up Savabeel, must have been doing cartwheels when the plain looking nag they picked up for a song at $80 000 and named Strike the Stars hit the track running and from day one looked like a real racehorse.
Perhaps in those halcyon days of its youth the owners were wondering whether they might have called their new pet Strike the Lucky Stars, for in its seven start debut season their wonder horse returned double his purchase price, its gold-plated first campaign culminating in a win in the time-honored prestigious Group 3 Gloaming Stakes, a race by some pretty handy steeds over the years, including multi-million dollar winners Kingston Town, Tie the Knot, So You Think, Its a Dundeel and Sir Dapper.
Strike the Stars future in that spring of 2011 that the French horse Dunaden won The Cup was so bright that its owners had to wear shades.
The now star colt’s second season went pretty well too. Although he only ran one placing in his 5 runs that campaign, the silver medal was in one of Australia’s premier mile race for three-year-old’s, the Group 1 Australian Guineas at the famous Flemington racecourse, the home of The Cup.
Strike the Stars finished close fourths in another couple of Group One races as well, the prestigious Australian and South Australian Derbies, earning his owners triple what they had paid for him in the process.
The shades were still on.
The horse had only four starts in his Spring Carnival campaign later that 2012 year, not getting hot in three listed and group races, his only paycheck coming in a 0-95 mile at Flemington on the final day of the Cup Week extravaganza. He picked up a cheque worth a paltry $9000 for the effort.
Oh well, I guess the owners thought, even great horses can have an off-campaign. So they put Strike the Stars away for a summer spell, and brought him back for the big Sydney races in the Autumn, with the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap as his main game.
He didn’t get hot in the big race, and its perhaps being kind to say that he was lukewarm for the whole campaign, although he did pick up ten grand for running third in the listed Lord Mayor’s Cup at Rosehill in the last race of his preparation, adding to the $3750 he’d earned for running fifth and seventh in two of his other 5 runs over 8 weeks.
Clouds were rolling in over the horizon, and began to cast dark shadows upon the ground The owners took off their shades, and put their pony out for a 462 day spell, hoping that the rest would rejuvenate their rapidly falling Star.
Striker came back as fresh as a daisy, and things looked to be back on track when he won over 1400m up at Royal Randwick first up from the 4 month break, earning the owners $48 500 in the process.
He was back, and the owners reached into their pockets for the shades as they made arrangements to float him to Melbourne for a crack at Victoria’s premier mile race, The Emirates, on the final day of the Cup Carnival.
They gave him a lead-up run in a Group 3 race at Flemington a week before the Emirates, and he ran a slashing third, and then performed well against the top-flight by running a close eighth, beaten only 2 lengths, in his main target, earning a cool $38 000 in pocket money for his connections.
Excited by his improved form, the turf enthusiasts who owned Strike the Stars sent him back to Sydney for a couple of easy early summer kills, but he ran into a wet track at his first start, and then in his next disaster struck.
He pulled up lame.
Sending the horse out for a long, long spell was the only thing that connections could do, and that’s exactly what they did. During the break it was decided that they’d send their Star over to Western Australia, figuring that a change of trainer and scenery might be just the ticket to help him regain his zip and his zest for racing.
The one-time group winner resumed off the back of his injury-enforced 304 day break at Perth’s Ascot track in the Spring of 2014. He might as well have stayed in Sydney, for the horse’s run was terrible, finishing a well beaten 12th against horses that he once would have picked up and carried to the line.
His next four runs were no better, and Strike the Stars went back to the spelling paddock with his head hung low and five straight duck eggs to his name.
The owners threw their sunnies on the ground and stamped on them. But then the memories of the glory days of the horse’s youth must have made them feel guilty, for they decided to return him to the Emerald City and his original trainer Anthony Cummings and have one more crack, which he did 3 months later in the Spring of 2015.
There was no fairytale, and no happy ending, for poor old Striker went like a busted arse at both his return runs, and it was clear that the dream was absolutely dead. Training fees and feed bills are too expensive to pay for nothing, and so there were just three options left for the neddy who once promised the world, but delivered just a hat full of heartbreak and bitter disappointment.
He could be retired to a long life of leisure in a lush, sun-drenched paddock somewhere out the back of the hills of Scone.
He could take a short one-way trip to the glue factory.
Or they could do what owners for time immemorial have done with once nearly-great gelded gees-gees bereft now of both brilliance and their balls.
They could put him over the sticks.
They decided to put him over the sticks.
But there was one slight problem. The horses trainer didn’t guide jumpers, and besides there are no hurdle and steeplechase races in Sydney, only in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Their was only one thing for it – send Strike the Stars to the sales. So that’s what they did, and in May 2015 the connections copped one last earn from the steed that had earned them more than half a million bucks on their 80 grand investment, flogging him off to a bloke from Melbourne with $9000 of loose change in his pocket and a head full of dreams.
Or maybe not, for the bloke on-sold poor old Striker to a syndicate of seven, including Victorian jump-racing legend Eric Musgrove, who had once upon a time transformed another good flat racer turned cheap buy named Karasi into perhaps the world’s best steeplechaser, winning Japan’s premier jump race 3 times in a row and more than $3 million along the way.
A decision was made that the newly acquired former-Group winner would be sent to Karasi’s former strapper Belinda Simpson, a young horse-woman who had not long ago struck out on her own, and at that stage had a stable of two, and was doing okay with them too, despite the poor quality of her cattle.
And so without any further ado, or any break for another spell, suddenly Strike the Stars was back, and new dreams were born.
Striker’s first run for his new trainer Simpson was in dying days of Autumn, just 6 weeks after the sale, in a race at Mooney Valley, home of the famous Cox Plate, and over the same distance too, and despite his Prince of Penzance odds of 100-1 the faded superstar ran a bottler too, finishing a battling seventh of twelve and less than four lengths from the winner. He even earned a $980 cheque for his troubles.
Team Striker were in business, and it was off to bush and up and over the sticks!
He didn’t like the jumps game at first, our fallen hero, and was beaten out of sight at his initial foray over the fences, finished a twelve length second, but it wasn’t all bad because his super seven syndicate of owners picked up $300 prize money to pay for the petrol.
He had another crack a fortnight later – again at Casterton – and improved out of sight, running a close second and securing $4640 in stakes.
And then it was off to the big smoke. Morphetville, scene of his heroic fourth in the Derby that long three years ago, and the big fella brained them.
Well sort of anyway.
Striker ran second, but it was a bloody brave second too. But best of all was that his blinder of a run earned the owners $7 500 big ones! All of a sudden, after just four starts under Simpson’s care, they were in front! Their new stable star had already earned them $13 420, a profit of $4420 less expenses in the space of just two months.
You bloody beauty! The sky was the limit now.
But as so often happens in the game in which guys and dolls are equal above and below the turf, in a space of just seconds triumph turned to tragedy as Striker returned to the runner-up stall limping and as sore as a scalded scab.
The unsound neddy had broken down once more.
His previous owners may well have pulled a shotgun and ended it there in order to save the vet’s fees, but not our Bindi, for fortunately for our favourite horse Ms Simpson had swiftly fallen in love with Striker, and there would be no shotgun blasts for him, just rest and trailer-loads of tender loving care.
Striker spent 229 days in Belinda Simpson’s spelling barn this time round, but the love between the pair is clearly mutual, and one morning he looked his new trainer in the eye and whispered ‘Sweetheart, I’m ready hot and raring to go. It’s time to take me back to the track!’.
And that’s exactly what Bindi did, and now after three unplaced flat starts as warm-ups Striker is primed for the winter jumping season and we’re about to discover that dreams sometimes do come true as Strike the Stars readies himself to take the racing world by storm once more.
The Grand National Hurdle this year is his for the taking, and probably the Grand National Steeple too, and then it’s off to Japan and soon the syndicate of seven true believer’s schooner glasses will be overflowing with spondoolies as Striker slays all comers from every corner of the globe.
You know, it just proves that the wild-eyed Wham fan Gorgeous George was right after all. Strike me pink, for once in his life the wog’s got it spot on.
Ya gotta have faith.
Just remember though that Archie told you first, and don’t forget the super-sized sling when the riches from the punting winnings start rolling in.
Just what does Gorgeous George see in this Greek gasbag that’s so bloody exciting?