Ken Casellas | Photo: Tabcorp Menangle
Early this year hobby trainer Graeme Collins decided to quit the sport of harness racing. But a spur of the moment decision in May has rekindled his interest in the sport.
The 60-year-old Collins, his wife Pauline and their son Ben are now the proud owners of four-year-old Art Major gelding Forsure, who at his first appearance for 14 months, made a striking West Australian debut when he unwound a spirited finishing burst to win a 2130m event at Gloucester Park on Tuesday afternoon at the handsome odds of $21.10.
The win revived memories of former champion millionaire pacer My Field Marshal, who won the $300,000 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park in January 2019 when he defeated Galactic Star and Vultan Tin.
Forsure is a full-brother to My Field Marshal, who earned $1,493,182 from 29 wins and 25 placings from 76 starts. His other WA victory was in the Village Kid Sprint in December 2018. One of his other major feature race victories was in the $450,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle in February 2018 when he won by a head from Jilliby Kung Fu, and left Soho Tribeca and three Interdominion champions Lennytheshark, Tiger Tara and Lazarus in his wake.
Collins and his family are not looking for similar riches from Forsure. All they want is some enjoyment, with Graeme Collins saying: “This is only for fun. We just want a horse who is competitive; it doesn’t matter whether it is on a Tuesday or a Friday night.
Collins, a compliance officer with Western Power, is the only harness racing trainer from Muchea, a small town about 45km north-east of Perth.
He says that he became interested in harness racing about twenty years ago when his son Ben was keen to drive in races. One of his early winners was Danmelben, who had 34 starts for five wins, seven placings and $37,093 in stakes. Danmelben’s first foal was Kamendable Lass, who had 98 starts for seven wins, 21 placings and $67,816, with the highlight of her career being her third placing behind Highest Royalty in the group 1 Diamond Classic at Gloucester Park in June 2013.
“I had just about given the game away early this year,” said Collins. “I sold most of my horses and my truck. I was going to get out, and then I saw that this horse (Forsure) was advertised for sale in Victoria.
“I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. I got on the phone and we negotiated a price, and that was it. I had seen a video of him in a trial at Melton on May 25 and liked the look of him.”
For the record, Forsure finished fourth in the six-horse trial, five lengths behind the winner Sahara Sirocco who rated 1.55.6 over 1720m.
Forsure, who raced 12 times in New Zealand for three wins and two placings, was brought to Australia by noted New Zealand trainer Tim Butt, and he made his Australian debut at Menangle on September 29, 2020 when he finished seventh in a field of eight, eight lengths from the winner Held To Ransom.
Collins said that Forsure was suffering from a virus when he raced at Menangle, and that the gelding was then given five or six months off, during which time Butt relocated to Melton in Victoria.
Due to Covid travel restrictions, Forsure did not arrive in WA until July, and he has been given a slow and careful preparation by Collins, who engaged Ryan Bell to drive the pacer at his WA debut, mainly due to the fact that Bell had driven Kamendable Lass many times on country tracks in 2018 and 2019, including a win at Busselton in January 2019.
Forsure began from barrier six in Tuesday’s race at Gloucester Park and Bell had the gelding pacing strongly in sixth position, one-out and two-back, before sending him forward, three wide, with 250m to travel. Forsure finished full of running to win by a half-length from Rock On The Beach, rating 1.566.8 over 2130m.
Bell was delighted with the win for the Collins family, although he still had sad memories of when Danmelben, a 14/1 chance driven by Morgan Woodley, finished strongly to get up and beat Schinzig Buller (9/1) by a half-length at Gloucester Park on January 18, 2008. “That prevented me from training my first winner,” explained Bell.
If breeding is any criterion, Forsure is destined for bigger and better things. His dam Foreal, a mare by the American stallion Washington VC, amassed $664,800 from 18 wins and 19 placings from 57 starts.
Her wins included the group 2 Ladyship Stakes over 2200m, the 1700m group 2 Sires Stakes Championship and the group 1 Great Northern Oaks, all at Alexandra Park in the month of November 2004 for trainer Tim Butt and reinsman Anthony Butt.
In Australia, Foreal won the New South Wales Oaks at Harold Park in February 2005, and the Ladyship Mile at Harold Park in November 2005. She also finished third behind Blacks A Fake in the Interdominion championship final at Adelaide’s Globe Derby Park in January 2007.