By Andrew Adermann
The 2017 Blacks A Fake winner Hectorjayjay is closing in on a remarkable return to racing after almost two years in the paddock following a successful trial at Albion Park yesterday.
In 2018, connections of the now-10-year-old gelding were told he may never race again after sustaining a series of serious leg injuries.
But now, almost two years post-prognosis, Hector has a new lease on life after making the move up to Queensland to work with Logan-based trainer Jack Butler.
“He was just doing so well in the paddock and the owner said maybe we should just give it one last crack,” Butler said.
“I train for the owner (who is based in Victoria), so he came to me and said would you like to give him a go?
“I’ve got a sand track, a swimming pool and treadmills (to aid his training and recovery) and he just asked me if I’d like to take him as one last hurrah.”
Hectorjayjay forged a reputation as one Australia’s most brilliant pacers, where his combination of endurance and devastating turn-of-foot saw him earn more than $1 million in prize money throughout his career.
Across an 80 race career, he amassed 43 wins and a further 21 placings.
In the winter of 2016, his then-trainer, David Aiken, brought the five-year-old up to Queensland for a tilt at the state’s most prestigious races.
He first claimed the Group 2 Garrard’s Sunshine Sprint over 1660 metres, before starting an even-money favourite in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship – ultimately falling short for second place.
A year later he returned for the same pair of races, going back-to-back in the Sprint, before a dramatic finish in the Blacks A Fake saw him go one better on 2016 and take home the $200,000 feature.
Driven by Josh Aiken, Hectorjayjay sat near last for the majority of the 2680 metre trip, being forced to come five-wide on the final turn to storm home down the outside fence to claim victory in the final metres.
However, a serious leg injury kept Hector off the track for almost a year, and only raced on one more occasion before his career seemingly came to a close.
That one race was a win at Kilmore in June 2018, meaning he will soon return to the track on a three-race win streak that stretches more than 1000 days.
Yesterday, Hectorjayjay returned to the track for the first time since that Kilmore run in a four-horse 1660 metre trial at Albion Park.
He went straight to the back of the pack, but as is customary from the veteran pacer, he showed that all-too-familiar burst of acceleration up along the pegs to storm home for an impressive second place.
“He went real good, he just hit the line terrific and they got home in 27.6 seconds,” Butler said.
“He made up three lengths in the straight and did it on the bit so we were stoked with him today.”
As an 11th birthday approaches in the spring and injuries concerns seemingly a thing of the past, Butler remains bullish for what’s to come for the evergreen star.
“He’s had no other issues, fit as a bell and we just want to keep him that way as everything is going great at the moment,” Butler said.
“It’s always hard to get them back running at any age, but he’s just a bloody a good horse – a champion actually – and he’s just got the will to run and to win.
“The main goal was the (now abandoned) winter carnival but at this stage I’m just hoping we can get him to win a race and play it by ear from there.
“For his age, he actually hasn’t had a great deal of starts so if we can keep him going there could be a couple of seasons left in him still.”