By Jordan Gerrans
As brilliant as former Townsville Horse of the Year Dalon can be, his sense of timing has been his downfall across his career.
The son of Falvelon has enjoyed an enigmatic tenure in North Queensland.
At his best – he is arguably in the top handful of horses north of Mackay – and when he is not at his peak, he is usually finishing well back in the field.
At one stage in his three-year-old campaign, he ran in the top two in eight consecutive races, which landed four victories.
But, whenever he has been racing in top form and a chance to snare an elusive feature race, he has run into a roadblock.
In that three-year-old season when Dalon was flying – he was first emergency for the time-honoured Cleveland Bay Handicap at Cluden Park.
Regular rider Bonnie Thomson still thinks Dalon would have given the winner of the 2019 Cleveland Bay Handicap – Mr Attitude – a fair shake if he had sneaked his way in.
Dalon won a lower graded race the week of the 2019 Cleveland Bay Handicap after missing out on the big one.
History somewhat repeated itself for Thomson and the Coleman family that race Dalon this week.
Now considered a middle-distance galloper that is being tried as a stayer, the now seven-year-old gelding ran in the top two last Saturday over a mile for the first time since January 2021, which is a key lead-in race for Saturday's Townsville Cup.
And, just as it did in the winter carnival of 2019, Dalon looked likely to miss out on a start in a feature Cluden Park race.
It has been a long-held ambition of the Coleman family – who live adjacent to the track in Townsville – to claim a big-time race with their treasured horse.
When the final acceptances were released for the Townsville Cup on Wednesday morning, he was the second emergency and was unlikely to force his way into the starting gates come Saturday.
But, as of Thursday morning, following two scratchings, he has snuck his way in at the perfect possible time.
Ian Coleman now trains the galloper after his father George had to call time on his training career following a battle with his health.
“We did not get a start in the Cleveland Bay that year and that was the year we really wanted a start as he was in form,” Ian remembers of 2019.
“He was racing well back then.
“This is the first year I have got him back as fit and healthy as he was as a three-year-old.”
Racing mostly between 1200 and 1400 metres throughout his career, and recently struggling to figure in the finish, the stable had a throw at the stumps last month with a crack at a mile event against stayers heading towards the Cup.
In Thomson’s words, Dalon ran a “bottler”, finishing two lengths second to Sharlee Hoffman’s Maquereau – who will be a big player in the Cup.