By Duane Ranger
It was a moment that New Jersey horseman, John McDermott, had been longing for from the moment his champion pacer and stallion, Hurrikane Kingcole, left him in the USA three years ago.
Hurrikane Kingcole’s co-owner and former trainer was in the Toowoomba region on Monday (April 1), and specifically came to Queensland to visit his beloved mate who is standing at Egmont Park Stud in Biddeston.
He also attended the Albion Park Trots and the Redcliffe Sales on Saturday and Sunday.
“Of course I shed a tear. I’m almost shedding a tear now - a day just later - just thinking about it," McDermott said.
“It was a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life. You know I couldn’t sleep some nights thinking about my best friend. I was so worried about how he would look now. Everyone who knows me will tell you I love my animals.
“I didn’t have to worry about a thing though did I?. What beautiful, healthy condition he is in! All my fears were allayed. Peter and Leann (Bell) have done a wonderful job with him. He’s exactly how I hoped he would look. I can’t thank them enough.
“And you know what? He knew me. It was like old friends meeting up after such a long time. Forever mates reunited. It’s truly a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” McDermott said from the Sunshine Coast.
Hurrikane Kingcole was a $10,000 yearling sales purchase. The son of Cam's Card Shark and Blazing Yankee then went on to win 14 of his 49 starts and earned $582,807 in an injury-plagued career.. His lifetime mark was 1:47.3.
His crop of 2-year-olds are just starting to hit the ground running now in Australia, but McDermott loved the horse from the moment he saw him at the sales.
“If you thought I loved him at first sight, try now. I remember the moment the hammer went down and we got him for a bargain $10,000. Then the phone rang at home and I was told (my dog) ‘King Cole’ had just died," he said.
“’King Cole’ was my best friend back then. My 16-year-old Great Dane. From that moment on I believe the dog’s spirit moved into that yearling. That’s why he’s called Hurrikane King Cole and that’s why this horse has long been my best friend."
He also explained that the term ‘Hurrikane’ came from his mother and his son.
“Kane is my son. He’s 22 now. He was named after my mother’s maiden name which is Kane. Kane’s sister nicknamed him Hurrikane one day and it stuck," he said.
McDermott said when he bought Hurrikane Kingcole the colt was a bit fat.
“He was like a tubby little school kid and then within months he blossomed into the wonderful racehorse and now the striking stallion he is today. It’s just a shame he was injured and sick throughout his career," he said.
“If he had been raised in Queensland he could have been anything. Your fresh air would have been amazing for him, but instead he was always cooped up back home recovering in boxes.
“Sadly we only got to see glimpses of him at his very best because of his immune system issues, as well as his breathing difficulties."
Apart from reuniting with his old mate again for the first time in three years, McDermott said one of the other highlights ‘Down Under’ was visiting Albion Park with Hurrikane Kingcole’s co-owners and lifetime friends, Scott Mangini and Carl Garafalo (pictured).
“Yes I am an emotional kinda guy, but it completely blew me away to see Hurrikane Kingcole’s name in large letters along the back-straight," he said.
“That was touching. What a great place to visit. It was so good to see so many young ones in their twenties having a great night out at the races. We could learn a thing or two from you guys back home."
The day after the trots McDermott and his mates were under-bidders on Lot 35 at the Redcliffe Yearling Sale - a Hurrikane Kingcole - Too Smart For You colt.
“We really liked him too but had to let him go at $47,000. That was also a great day out. It was so heartening to know that he produced the top lot and there were eight others by him at the Sale," he said.
“When he raced his gait was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. His front leg stood so far out beyond his nose when he was in full gear, it was ridiculous.
“He was the reason I got up every day to go to the barn. l loved his personality. He was such a pleasure to be around. He liked us. He was just a happy-go-lucky horse – just awesome. It was so good to see him again."
And that wasn’t owners bias either. One of North America’s best reinsmen also agreed Hurrikane Kingcole was something special.
“He is the fastest and most powerful horse I’ve ever driven. His gait was effortless and sitting behind him was awe inspiring,” said Yannick Gingras.
Now Hurrikane Kingcole is starting to make his mark as a sire in both hemispheres.
His son and daughter Hurrikane Emperor and Hurrikane Empress are really making a name for themselves against the best company in North America. Hurrikane Emperor is the current New Jersey Horse-of-the-Year. They are both trained by McDermott.
“I live in both New Jersey and Florida depending on the season, but have to be back in New Jersey on April 7 for our Stakes season. Believe me these two pacers are something special. They have competed and won against the best and you will hear a lot more about them this season. They have a lot of their father’s traits.
“Also down here Vic Frost speaks highly of his Hurrikane Kingcole 2-year-old, Frost en Ice. That is a huge compliment.
“I tell you Hurrikane Kingcole is the greatest bargain going, both back home, and Down Under. I just know his offspring will do well.
“But I’ve leased him to Kevin Seymour, and he knows I want my old buddy back. I think it’s a 10-year lease, but Kevin is a great guy and he told me 'HKC' would be coming home to me one day.
“That news made my day. I hated saying goodbye to him again,” McDermott said.