The Luck of a Novice Owner

Peter Chivers, a former Victorian country footballer, has always been an enthusiastic follower of harness racing and his determination to become actively involved in the sport is paying handsome dividends.

He is now a proud part-owner of Caviar Star, winner of last week’s Fremantle Cup and a major player in the $400,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Almost 25 years ago, Chivers and several of his teammates at the Maryborough Football Club in the Bendigo League chipped in a few dollars to purchase an unraced two-year-old named Young Rhapsody.

The young pacer, trained by John Dewhurst, had injury issues and he broke down at his debut and only start.

Chivers, now a 53-year-old personal trainer, continued to play country football in Victoria until 19 years ago when he ventured to Perth when one of his mates Jeremy Humm was drafted by the West Coast Eagles.

“The Eagles were affiliated with WAFL club East Perth and Jeremy was playing with them,” said Chivers. “He knew that I was keen for an assistant coaching role and said he would give me a leg up at East Perth. The rest is history. I came over and worked for seven years on the senior coaching staff at East Perth where I learnt a lot from Tony Micale, Mark Merenda and David Hynes.

“I maintained my keen interest in harness racing and I followed Gary Hall senior and Gary Hall junior. I could see that they were pretty dominant and of the highest ilk. I didn’t know the Halls, but I approached Junior one day on Twitter about 18 months ago.

“I had a chat with him, and he put me on to Senior, who told me that that he was hoping to buy Caviar Star from New Zealand. So, that day I viewed the form of Caviar Star and went from there. I’ve got about a 20 per cent interest in the horse.

“To be able to own my own horse is a thrill, and it has turned out to be a fabulous ride. The success we’ve had with Caviar Star has been amazing. When I got a share of Caviar Star I met the other owners Karen Hall, Don MacGregor Nick Patriarca and his son Rob and they welcomed me in like they had known me for years.

“We had our first race on a Saturday night at Gloucester Park (on July 14, 2018) when it was teeming with rain. Caviar Star started from the outside of the back line and sat three deep for the final 1000 metres and won at a 1.57.3 rate. I then thought that we’d got a horse with a bit of ability.”

Caviar Star cost his new band of owners $60,000 (including costs to bring the gelding to Perth) and has been a wonderful success, with his 27 starts in Western Australia producing ten wins, nine seconds and one third for $324,723in prizemoney.   

Hall snr, who chalked up a record nine wins in the Fremantle Cup when Stuart McDonald drove the five-year-old to a thrilling head victory over Vampiro last Friday night when the gelding rated 1.54.2 to smash the 2536m track record held by superstar Lazarus, is seeking his twelfth victory in a WA Pacing Cup.

“From barrier six it is going to be hard,” Hall said. “Caviar Star is an honest little horse. He is no Chicago Bull or Im Themightyquinn, but he is versatile and tries his heart out.”

Chivers agreed with Hall, saying: “It’s going to be hard, but you never know. The horse is in form and is timed to the minute by Senior. We’ve got to make our own luck and if you give yourself the best opportunities you never know your luck in a big race.”

While Chivers is an absolute novice in the sport and to big races, champion reinsman Chris Lewis is at the other end of the scale and will be enjoying the experience of competing in a WA Pacing Cup for the 37th time.

A winner of the big race five times (with Village Kid in 1986, 1988 and 1989, Hilarion Star in 1994 and Saab in 1999) Lewis will be in the sulky behind speedy New Zealand-bred five-year-old Bill Haley, who is prepared by his wife Debra.

Bill Haley is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line and should be prominent throughout. He possesses a powerful finishing burst and is in top form. He started from the No. 1 barrier in the Fremantle Cup and was fifth, three back on the pegs at the bell, before running home fast, out wide, to be third behind Caviar Star and Vampiro. He thundered home from last at the bell to win from Caviar Star over 2130m the previous week.