Sometimes in this world when you are a crusading journalist making a Reckless-style late life surge toward racing immortality you find yourself having to say and do things that make you uncomfortable, because you just know what you are about to write is going to upset a whole bunch of people including some you’re quite fond of and others that you respect.
The coward’s way out would be to say “no f*ck it, it’s more trouble than it’s worth” and send your thought bubble to the bin, but cowards don’t win too many World Wars and they don’t jump into trenches like Albert Jacka and slay seven Turks on their Pat Malone to save their mates either. So who wants to be a coward?
Now I’m no Albert Jacka – nobody is – so my little act of courage isn’t going to save lives, and it isn’t going to win wars, and what I want to say doesn’t matter at all really, but it will to some and they might not like it. Such is life as Ned said, and I’m saying it anyway.
Buffering is the wrong horse to the first immortalised in bronze at Eagle Farm.
There. It’s said.
I love the Buff, but he’s a duff choice to stand cast in bronze and mounted at the entrance to the stables at headquarters, because as the only statue on Queensland’s most prestigious track it places the gelding as the best horse the Pineapple State has ever seen.
As tough and as good as the big fella was, the fact is that he’s not even in the top three. On top of that his race record at the Eagle Farm track where he now stands frozen in bronze and time was good – in fact the average owner would consider it exceptional – but when stacked up against the pantheon of great gallopers who have graced the grass at Ascot that isn’t there anymore good is about as good as it gets.
Buffering’s record at Eagle Farm is just 4 wins from 9 starts.
Two of the four wins were on heavy tracks.
One was in the Group 2 Victory Stakes when Buff beat the two-time Group 1 winner Atomic Force – whose wins at the highest level came in the sub-standard Railway Handicap in New Zealand, and in what is surely the nation’s weakest Group 1 race The Galaxy – and Azzaland, an injury plagued sprinter whose best win was in a listed race. d an ordinary off season late winter QTIS 3YO handicap defeating the speedy squib Slice and Dice.
The other heavy track win was in a weak open sprint in the first week of the Winter Carnival when he smashed up a clearly past its best Scenic Peak – who only raced twice more before being retired after running 13th of 16 in the Doomben 10 000 – and cats like Captain Clayton and Adebisi.
Buffering’s sole win on a dry track at Eagle Farm was in a 2YO QTIS Colts and Geldings Handicap defeating Steel Dragon, an honest toiler who has always been about 10 lengths off group company, and that’s being generous about it.
Lets flick over to Buff’s record at Doomben.
Ten starts for three wins.
Two of them were in 2YO QTIS races, the other one again in the Group 2 Victory Stakes, which with prize money of $113 000 for the winner must be one of the lowest paying second tier group races in the world, and one of the weakest as well because what sort of elite race has Startsmeup, Listen Son, the non-winner Albrecht and Ready to Rip as 4 of its 7 starters?
On the positive side of the ledger Buff did run 4th, 2nd and 2nd in three consecutive Stradbroke Handicaps, and 2nd, 3rd and 7th in three Ten Thousands, but since when did Australians start building statues to silver medalists?
I’m not taking anything away from Buffering, who was a great horse – his second to Linton in the 2013 Straddie at a distance 100m beyond his best and carrying 58kg was one of the bravest runs I’ve ever seen – but he was definitely not the King of Eagle Farm, and let’s face it he wasn’t he best of his generation either.
When you are a member of a generation that includes Black Caviar that is no out and out knock, but unfortunately Hay List also had Buff totally covered, and beat him home comprehensively on each of the four occasions that they clashed before wily Brisbane trainer Rob Heathcoate devised a racing program for his horse that was specifically designed to avoid the two champion sprinters he knew were better than his boy.
Mental and Sea Siren had the wood on Buff as well, and so too did the recently retired Lankan Rupee and the fast fading champion Chautauqa.
Moment of Change didn’t, but thAT is no surprise given that after winning 5 of its first 9 races that gelding had it’s heart broken by Black Caviar in the 2013 VRC Lightning Handicap and only won 2 of its next 20 starts. Waterman’s Bay and Fast and Rocking didn’t either, which isn’t saying much, but those three horses between them filled the placings in two of Buffering’s Group 1 wins, both in the weak grade Winterbottom Stakes run in the summer in WA.
Another of Buffering’s wins came in the 2015 Moir Stakes when he beat home Ball of Muscle, a horse who won 8 of its 12 starts up to May 2015, but has won only one – at Flemington last week – in the two and a half years since, and has never won a Group race. To give you an idea of the depth of the field Le Bonsir, Sterling City and Miss Promiscuity also ran in the race. Say no more.
His first win in the Moir in 2012 wasn’t against much either. The welter class former Queensland galloper Ready To Rip was runner-up, the gay deceiver ThankGodYou’reHere ran third and on a dry track the wet tracker Tiger Tees filled the fourth spot. In another year and with a prize money boost you might find those three competing in the Cannonball series final at Kilcoy in December.
Buff’s win in Dubai was mighty, but in assessing the race you need to take into account that the horses filling the placings were the outclassed in England plugger turned Arabian champion Ertijaal – who took up the mantle when the Black Stallion was retired – and the mid-rank Group class Hong Kong sprinter Peniaphobia, and with the odd rare exceptions like Fairy King Prawn or Silent Witness the HK short distance runners generally aren’t that good.
His 2013 Manikato Stakes win was exceptional as well, but again look at the runners up in the race, the Honk Kong sprinter Lucky Nine (see above) and the hugely over-rated Ingham-owned Sessions, a highly-talented but absolutely pea-hearted horse if you’ve ever seen one.
Ditto with the VRC Sprint victory in the same year. Moment of Change ran 3rd and Shamexpress, second up after winning the weakest Newmarket in living memory at the end of its last prep – Moment of Change and Aeronautical ran the placings FFS – ran second.
Buffering’s best Group 1 win (in my opinion) was in the 2014 edition of the Moir Stakes when he beat Rebel Dane and Lankan Rupee, but there were only 5 starters in the race that year and the other four jockeys allowed Damian Browne to dictate the pace and get away with murder in front, and with our boy sizzling home in 34.45 – high flying around the tight Valley turns – they had no hope in hell of catching him.
There you go, I’ve deconstructed Buff’s seven Group 1’s and probably give the impression that I’m putting the great Queensland sprinter’s achievements down, but let me assure you that is far from the case.
As I said at the outset I’m a huge Buffering fan, and reckon he was a great horse with the heart of a lion. I just don’t believe that a galloper who only won 4 races at Eagle Farm – the best of them a Group 2 – should be the first horse to have a statue cast in its honour at the great old track.
Buff has a reserved bronze spot in a boulevard of statues of legends of Queensland racing, that’s for sure.
It’s just not the number one spot. Or the two or three.
Which horses should be standing on the statue podium?
I’ll tell you tomorrow.
Happy Monday to all.
Thank God the carnival’s over.