Stupid, and crazy.
That’s the label Orange’s Michael Plummer was given when he bought nine-year-old Bathurstian for basically nothing last year, it was suggested the veteran stayer “had had it, and was never going to win again”.
In fairness, his record reflected that too.
The gelding hadn’t won since May 2016 and April 2015 before that and as Plummer said, “was getting beaten by 20 and 30 lengths” at times and “was pretty much ready for retirement”.
“I think he was looking for retirement when we got him and to be fair, we were going to buy him and get (apprentice hoop) Katie (Jenkinson) to do some work with him and then maybe sell him as a jumper because he is a lovely, big horse,” Plummer explained.
“But we put him into work and his first few runs were good, we’ve only had him for eight or nine races and he’s run pretty well in a lot of them. The key with the old fella is keeping him happy, getting him to want to do it.”
Well, he did want to do it last week and he defied the critics at the same time, saluting for the first time in almost two years at Wellington’s famed, 2400-metre Iron Horse.
“He’s always had the ability, he’s run [14 seconds] from his 71 starts and another [seven] thirds so when he wants to, he can do it,” Plummer said.
“His form wasn’t good when we got him but it’s good to see him come back a bit and it was really great to see him win, as much for him as me, because he’s a great old horse.”
But, sentimentality aside, Plummer knows Friday’s Inland Digital Orange Showcase Gold Cup (2100 metres) might be a bit beyond his veteran, considering he’ll line up alongside the likes of Cameron Crockett’s Kingsbridge, Garry White’s Letter To Juliette and Joseph Pride’s Bon Equus.
“It’ll be a hard race and I’ll probably be happy if he runs mid-field to be honest, but you just never know with the old bugger,” Plummer said of Bathurstian, formerly trained by Mudgee’s Gayna Williams and then Bathurst’s Paul Theobald.
“If he gets out in front and things go his way, it could happen. He likes to lead, he did last week, and I think we’ll try and get to the front again on Friday, hopefully he doesn’t get attacked too much.
“He’s a confidence horse, sometimes when the others come up past him he just thinks ‘righto, well, see you later’ but his work last week was excellent and he’s been good again this week.
“We actually nominated him and we were about 80 per cent on him not going around, we were seeing how he pulled up because at his age, the biggest thing is the welfare of the horse.
“But we’ve taken him out and Katie said the old bugger was pulling, feeling strong and really striding out. The biggest problem is his distance is 2400, but I guess at least we know he’ll always get the 2100.”
Plummer isn’t under any illusions either, he knows there probably isn’t that much gas left in the big stayer’s tank after a career that’s taken him as far as, incredibly, Betoota, a ghost town in central west Queensland that has a population of zero and hosts one meet a year.
He just wants to get the best out of Bathurstian before it’s time to hang up the reins.
“He’s had a good career and the minute he shows that he doesn’t want to do it we’ll find him a nice home,” Plummer said.
The Orange trainer will have a handful of other runners in Racing Orange’s eight-race showcase meeting as well, Quite Frankly will run in the third and Sovereign Default in the fourth.
“Stately Boy is running in the 1000 as well,” Plummer said, that’s the Epiroc 3YO & Up Maiden Showcase Handicap.
“He ran in the Cowra Cup two starts ago and was only beaten three lengths and he’s actually run a third down at Flemington too, but he’s still immature at four, he’s got a lot to learn.
“His work’s been really good, but this is probably more of a barrier trial for him than anything. He’s a nice horse though, I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.
“Sovereign Default’s last run at Dubbo was just huge too. She’s had no luck, the first five runs back she drew outside barriers then drew the inside after all the rain, when the inside was no good (at Towac).
“Her record doesn’t look good on paper, but she’s run plenty of fourths and fifths and she’s doing really well.”
Gates open at noon on Friday, before the first at 12.45pm.
The $65,000 Inland Digital Orange Showcase Gold Cup jumps at 4.25pm.