|Fortune favours the brave and few showed more courage and determination on the racetrack than the Wanganui wonder Veandercross. Still hale, hearty and boisterous in retirement on owner Chris Turner’s property, the now 23-year-old attracted a cult following after his rags to riches story captured the imagination of racing fans on both sides of the Tasman.
“He’s really well and running with Sahrhys and they’re paddock mates now,” Turner said. (Sahrhys was bred and trained by Turner to win four races, including the Gr 3 Lowland Stakes).
The great Veandercross with Chris Turner
(Photo courtesy of Wanganui Chronicle)
|By far the best horse produced by the Habitat stallion Crossways, Veandercross was bred by Dr Bill Luey and purchased in a three in one deal for $1400 and what an investment that turned out to be.
“I bought the mare Lavender with Veandercross at foot, he was seven months old, and she was in foal to Wham,” Turner said.
Veandercross went on to win eight times at the elite level with home wins in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, Bayer Classic and the Lion Brown Sprint. He also claimed the Kelt Capital Stakes, at the time a Gr.3 event and now one of the country’s most prized Gr.1 features.
He was a mightily popular figure in Australia where he won the Canterbury Guineas, an epic Mackinnon Stakes, Australian Cup, the Ranvet and the Queen Elizabeth.
His class was further emphasised with runner-up finishes in the New Zealand Derby, Rosehill Guineas, AJC Derby and the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.It is that Caulfield Cup defeat to Lee Freedman’s Mannerism that still warrants lively discussions over a beer or three. Rider Shane Dye, it was once written, went so wide on the home turn he nearly collected the hot dog vendor’s stand!
(As an aside, Turner last year sent a mare to be served by the Redoute’s Choice stallion Tobique who is a grand-son of Mannerism and intends naming the resulting offspring Recasting The Dye!)
Dye has always maintained the integrity of his ride and Turner, a humble character, never publicly voiced any criticism. He took defeat on the chin and quietly observed that Shane would “know the horse better next time.”That came in the Mackinnon Stakes when they were slow out of the barrier, copped a chequered run in the straight and flashed home to beat Rough Habit.
“He missed the start by four or five lengths, dipped near the 500 metres in a wet patch, was checked twice in the straight and was still able to win,” Dye said.
He returned to a mixed reception that day from punters, but with his trademark confidence was unmoved by the jeers.“People pay money to come in and they’ve a right to their opinions,” he said.
Veandercross was officially prepared by the affable New Plymouth trainer John Wheeler in Australia and he was moved to say after the race: “Horses just don’t do what he did and get away with Group 1 races.”Veandercross went on to finish a brave second to Sub Zero in the Melbourne Cup and, at that stage of his career, had never finished further back than fourth.
“It was an enormous run, but he just came to the end of it short of the line,” Wheeler said. “He got shuffled back across the top and it was a great effort. He was the absolute best he could have been – he’s a great horse.”
Veandercross’ class and versatility were highlighted when he returned from a break the following February to win a Gr 1 sprint at Te Rapa.
With current focus turning to the upcoming autumn carnival, the Veandercross story is one fondly remembered also for his Sydney performances and particularly his rivalry with Naturalism.
Indeed, eight Sydney starts were rewarded with three victories, two seconds, a third and a pair of fourths and all pretty much against the best on offer.
A leg injury prompted the retirement of Veandercross in 1997 with a record of 15 wins and 15 placings from his 40 starts and stake earnings of just over $NZ3.5 million. who was honoured with the Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year title in 1992/93.
When asked of his most satisfying wins, Turner nominated Veandercross’ debut win as a two-year-old on his home Wanganui track, the Bayer Classic and the Mackinnon Stakes.
“The first one was special as we were green and didn’t know what to expect, the Bayer was a huge effort after he’d been three lengths last on the turn and the Mackinnon was a mighty race,” he said.
It was a mighty career from one of the most popular horses to have graced the turf.
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