A man and his horse: still good mates after all these years
THE horse is 25 years of age and its owner is 90 – and they’ve been best of mates for a long, long time.
But when grand old galloper Nova and owner Geoff Farrar rub shoulders each morning and evening, the term “stretching a friendship” comes to mind.
“He’s a bloody snob to tell you the truth – gives this almighty stare as if to say ‘who are you’,” Farrar chuckles.
“Of a morning, he stands in his stall waiting to be fed and then buggers around all day. He wanders back up in the afternoon and is ready to be fed at about six o’clock.
“He gets shod about every eight weeks and apart from his age, he’s fine.
“That’s his routine – no, he’s not spoilt,” Farrar smiles.
Farrar, a retired chartered accountant and former part-owner of local newspaper the Moree Champion, has been involved in racehorse ownership for more than six decades.
He’s part-owned some top horses over the years including ill-fated Rudari, Court Affair, Jazz Maker and more recently Moree Dreaming, but says without doubt Nova is the best.
The old horse now lives the life of Riley at Farrar’s home on acreage on the eastern edge of Moree.
There’s a huge paddock to roam in during the day and when called, Nova ambles up a winding driveway to a cosy stable and a good feed.
Farrar, his brother-in-law, the late Frank Moore, and mates David Strelitz and Sandy Hardcastle bought Nova’s mum Fine Artiste in foal with Nova at foot back in the early 1990s for just $1300.
Trained at Moree by Peter Sinclair, Nova won a string of races by leading all the way.
In early 2000 Nova was sent to Brisbane trainer Rob Heathcote who won three races at Doomben and one each at Eagle Farm and Ipswich with the son of Celestial Bounty.
Nova returned home to Sinclair in March, 2002 and continued on his winning way. He retired on a winning note as a nine-year-old on his home track on February 28, 2004.
“He was sound but we were all worried that if we kept going with him he might do himself an injury. The bones were getting weary so we retired him and he’s been here at home ever since,” Farrar said.
“He’s definitely the best horse I’ve ever owned. He won 23 races. The first horse I ever owned, Court Affair, also won 23 races.”
Farrar’s late wife Geraldene introduced him to racing back in the 1950s, and he’s been involved in the game ever since.
He arrived in Moree in 1954, and soon after was attending bush race meetings across the black-soil plains.
“In the early stages, I’d actually never been to a bloody race meeting and when I came to Moree my knowledge of racing was fairly minimal, you might say. I was gone straight away though, and the only way to be, was to be interested in racing,” Farrar recalled.
Peter Sinclair said Nova was one of the best horses to pass through his stable doors – and there’s been a few of them over the years.
“Nova was without doubt one of my better horses – one of the best, actually. Get me one today that can win 23 races,” Sinclair said.
“One of the hard things about training him was holding him in trackwork – he was a free-strider and would pull you into the ground if you didn’t give him his head.
“Even harder was training jockeys to ride him how he liked to be ridden. The trick was to let him bowl along. He could set up a 10-length lead and win by a length,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sinclair is staring down the barrel of his biggest winner at Coffs Harbour on Saturday – as an owner.
Sinclair part-owns emerging mare Hellenism, which he trained and educated as a young horse.
It didn’t take long for Sinclair to realise Hellenism was something very special and, like he’s done so many times in the past, advised owners Justin and Samantha Clarke, Leith Andrews and Ron and Lou Doran, to place the mare with a trainer closer to the better races on metropolitan and provincial tracks.
Hellenism was city-class, Sinclair argued, and too good for the bush.
And he was right.
The four-year-old has now had five starts for three wins and two placing and, according to syndicate manager Justin Clarke “should really be unbeaten”.
Hellenism, trained at Coffs Harbour by Aiden St Vincent, is a last-start Highway Handicap winner at Randwick and likely favourite for the $150,000 Northern Rivers Racing Association Country Championship heat on her home track on Saturday.
The mare is currently $26 in TAB fixed odds markets for the $500,000 Final at Royal Randwick on Saturday, April 4 but is expected to press for favouritism if successful on Saturday.
“Put it this way, I’d rather own the favourite of the final than the qualifier – have a think about that for a minute,” Sinclair smiled.
Words: Bill Poulos