Jim Pender will never forget when his outsider The Real Beel almost pulled off a major triumph for the underdog in a $1 million race at Ellerslie.
The Real Beel, a daughter of Savabeel, started the rank outsider at $162 in the Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) last Saturday evening and went down a mere neck to Australian raider Long Leaf.
‘’It’s my biggest thrill in racing,’’ the Tauranga trainer said. ‘’ It was pretty emotional for me. I gave my son Kelly a big hug and I was crying.
‘’It was a big thrill for Kelly, too. He’s done all the work on her since we got her.’’
It was the second $1 million race Pender had contested and the first was 26 years ago back in 1992 with his dual Group Two winner Power Chief in the Gr.1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) in Sydney.
“That was special for me,’’ Pender said. ‘’It was the first time I had taken a horse over there and he’d run second first-up in the Gr.3 Ajax Stakes (1500m) and he came up against a top field in the Doncaster.’’
Power Chief also provided Pender with a highlight when winning the Gr.2 Bluebird Foods Trophy (now Rich Hill Mile) at Ellerslie and also when starting his winning streak in his hometown feature, the Gr.2 Japan-NZ International Trophy (1600m), before heading to Sydney.
Pender has since won the Tauranga feature with Ginga Dude (2008), Casabella Lane (2011) and Our Star Pupil (2011) and notching his 100th win at Tauranga was also a memorable milestone for him.
Pender never has more than 15 horses in work and went through a lean patch last season, cutting his team down because of ill-health. But his luck changed when he picked up wins with Dudewithattitude at Tauranga last month and Nasha Riva earlier this month.
However, he rates his biggest break as the day he got a phone call last September from Wayne Phillips, who owns The Real Beel in partnership with his wife, Jo.
‘’He rung out of the blue and asked me if I’d take The Real Beel,’’ Pender said. “It was a shock to me. The closest I ever thought I’d get to a Savabeel was saddling up next to one at the races.”
In six previous starts when part of the Te Akau Racing Stables team, The Real Beel had won on debut and finished third in last year’s Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) after an unsuccessful second-up tilt at the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).
Pender soon realised her potential when he gave her a trial at Matamata last November.
“She was last on the turn and ran home for third to Melody Belle,’’ he said. ‘’It was a huge trial.”
The Real Beel’s first start for Pender resulted in a second to the talented Veine D’Or over 1400m at Tauranga then she was ridden against instructions when unplaced in the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and was again unplaced when suffering a rocky run at Tauranga. But Pender never lost faith in her and formulated a Karaka Million 3YO plan, which almost came off.
‘’I told Sam (Collett) to ride her back and let her slide forward a bit at the 800m and not wait until they all go,’’ Pender said.
‘’She rode her just as I asked. James McDonald was the first to make his move at the 800m on the winner and she went too and circled them. We nearly got it.’’
Pender has yet to decide on the next start for The Real Beel, but said the Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 9 is a possibility.
“She’s getting better and better since we’ve had her,’’ he said. ‘’She’s relaxed and happy and is having a couple of days in the paddock. I’ve still to decide where to go.”
Pender already has Nasha Riva, a daughter of Shocking, heading to the Te Rapa three-year-old fillies’ feature.
“They’re only three once and the owners are keen to have a go,’’ Pender said.
‘’She had no luck last time, but the way she flew home to win here at Tauranga suggests she’ll get the trip. She’ll be at long odds, too.” - NZ Racing Desk