“I’m one of the lucky ones,” declared Mike Cornwall after rising star Sheez Our Hope had scored a devastating victory at Gloucester Park on Friday night.
No, the cheery 67-year-old wasn’t referring to his good fortune in purchasing the mare for a mere $4000 two years ago but was reflecting on enjoying good health after doctors gave him just a five per cent chance of surviving an attack of leukemia 23 years ago.
“The leukemia is all gone; I’m one of the lucky ones, said Cornwall. “I was in and out of hospital for 12 months for chemotherapy etcetera and I got a fungal infection and had part of a lung removed. Originally, I went to hospital with pneumonia, and with the leukemia I was given only a five per cent chance of making it.”
This good news, heart-warming story outshines the interesting history of Sheez Our Hope, a five-year-old mare, who faced the distinct prospect of never racing as she romped wild with dozens of other horses in a large paddock in Burekup for almost two years.
“She was left to her own devices and when I got her she was quite feral and difficult to handle,” said Cornwall. “She had been broken in as a yearling by Steve Burton, and when I got her as a late three-year-old I had to start again, virtually, and it took quite a while to get her going again.
“Sheez Our Hope was advertised for sale on Facebook, and I saw that she was by Alta Christiano out of Easton Swift. I had quite a nice filly by Alta Christiano at the time, and I knew that Easton Swift had been a successful mare on the track.
“So, I wandered down to Burekup and had a look at her. I sort of liked her, put in an offer and was able to buy her for $4000. Interestingly, I was informed that she was a two-year-old, but then I discovered she was a three-year-old.”
The filly gradually responded to Cornwall’s loving care and the former wild animal is now described by her trainer as the best natured horse you would ever find.
So far, Sheez Our Hope has revealed that she has inherited much of the brilliance of Alta Christiano, an ill-fated champion pacer who earned $309,163 from his 13 wins from 18 starts, which included the WA Derby in April 2013. Easton Swift, a winner at one of five New Zealand starts, won at her Australian debut for Aldo Cortopassi at Northam in October 2010 and at her final start, in February 2013. She earned $123,391 from 13 wins and 12 placings from 52 starts.
Sheez Our Hope, who possesses sparkling gate speed and a dazzling turn of foot, is destined for a wonderful career. Her effortless win in the 2130m Simmonds Steel Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night took her record to eight starts for five wins and two placings for stakes of $37,780.
She was driven perfectly by Kyle Harper, who quickly moved her into the commanding one-out, one-back position before urging her forward, three wide, 600m from home. She burst to the front 160m later and won, unextended, from highly-regarded New Zealand-bred mares Nikasa and Sagano.
Cornwall proudly relates how Sheez Our Hope won at her four trials, three at Pinjarra and one at Byford, last year before he drove her to victory on debut, rating 2.0.5 over 2185m at Pinjarra last September.
“I knew that she would just win,” he said. “That was my final drive in a race. I was 66 and it was time to retire. And I also believe that lighter drivers go better.” He chose Harper because he “liked his style” and also because he had driven Iam The Real Thing to three wins at Pinjarra in 2019 and 2020.
Sheez Our Hope’s win on Friday night gave Cornwall his first training success in a metropolitan-class event since the Ben Geersen-owned Hamelin Gold was successful in a 2500m M0 event on August 8, 1997.
Cornwall became ill soon after that and spent many years away from horses. He and his wife Kerry moved into a property at West Pinjarra five years ago, and in those years he has won 12 races as a hobby trainer.
“I’ve ever only had one or two in work at a time and I have prepared only four horses in the past five years, and all four have been winners Iam The Real Thing, Downtoafineart, Onlythebestwilldo and Sheez Our Hope.
“I work for my wife, would you believe. She manages about 20 anaesthetists, and we work from home.”
Sheez Our Hope, whose preparation consists mainly of working in the sand, is being set for the $25,000 Harry Capararo Westbred Pace for four and five-year-old mares. She is an exciting prospect who should develop into a leading candidate for the $125,000 Mares Classic at Gloucester Park next summer.
by Ken Casellas