Hall Of Fame trainer Norm McCullagh is hoping his second visit to Horsham with golden girl Crimson Vixen for Saturday night’s Sylvia Penny Memorial (410m) pans out a whole lot better than their first.
McCullagh made the long trek from his Warrnambool base to Horsham with four-time country cups finalist Crimson Vixen way back in December 2018 at just her fourth start and he remembers the night vividly for all the wrong reasons.
“She went up with the lids and missed the start by six lengths,” McCullagh recalled ruefully.
“I remember it because it hurt the pocket!
“It was a really bad night because another bitch of mine, Delta Rhode, won another race but it was called a ‘no race’.”
While Crimson Vixen blew the start on that very rare occasion, she’s built a magnificent – and extremely popular – career on the back of exemplary box manners and brilliant early speed, netting 16 wins from her 29 starts and earnings in excess of $160,000.
She’ll be well-fancied to bank another $7000 when she exits box eight in the feature race on Saturday’s Horsham card, with Bound To Succeed (box 3), the winner of 10 from 15 for Noel Massina, the logical danger.
“She’s going alright but she’s probably not going as well as she was,” said McCullagh.
“She’s had problems with a crook hock so you’ve got to race her sparingly. I wouldn’t say she’s been injury-plagued but you can’t do what you want with her.
“She was dehydrated after running second in the Warragul Cup (January 11). The run did affect her so I gave her some time off and that’s why I’ve been putting her over the short.
“I thought she might have gone a bit better in her last start at Ballarat but in saying that she did run 22.02s.
“The pink box will probably suit her on Saturday. If she gets left alone for a couple of strides out of the boxes she does have that early pace.
“But this is a pretty tough race – Noel Massina has got one in there that goes pretty well and there’s a couple of others too – so she’s going to want things to go her way.”
McCullagh concedes that the end of Crimson Vixen’s career is drawing close and while there is great uncertainty surrounding all racing codes at the moment, a fairy tale farewell in her hometown Warrnambool Cup is a possibility.
“I think the owners are pretty keen to breed with her,” McCullagh said.
“It would be good to have another go at the Warrnambool Cup. She ran third last year and was a bit unlucky.”
The gang will be back together on Saturday, with another passenger from that ill-fated Horsham expedition in late 2018 joining McCullagh and Crimson Vixen, with Delta Rhode, the winner of nine from 22, resuming from three-months on the sidelines.
“She’s a pretty good bitch too. She did a hock and also injured a stopper bone,” McCullagh explained.
“Delta Rhode’s in race 12 so I probably won’t get home until about 1.30am! There’s no food, no drink and no tote there either but I suppose we should look on the bright side. We’re lucky to be racing.”