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Barrier manners a thing of the past for Fast Song

By Tony McMahon

There were tales an aplenty from Wednesday’s Rockhampton Jockey Club’s races at Callaghan Park, but none better than that of maiden winner Fast Song.

You could literally fill a book about “barrier shy” Fast Song and his determined trainer Phillip Burke, who has epitomised patience personified.

In fact, Burke has displayed the patience of Job in working for over a year in attempting to rectify Fast Song’s imperfect manners, which included numerous misdemeanours.

These ranged from a disregard for loading on a horse float; intolerance and misbehaviour at trackwork and a particular reluctance to load and conform in the barrier stalls.

Burke took over the training of Fast Song about 18 months ago after he had an embargo of a warning placed upon him for dislodging his jockey behind the race barriers on July 2019 at the Gold Coast.  

“He certainly was a problem child, I lost count of the times we took him to the barrier practice stalls and then to jump out and trials,” Burke said.

“His problem more than anything was from fear as it wasn’t that he was a bad horse but just scared.”

Fast Song is a massive and somewhat sight-intimidating individual and seemingly he knew it, using his physique to his advantage which Burke through experience would painfully attest.

“Slowly but surely, he gained his confidence,” Burke said.

“I can tell you I was beginning to lose patience with him during later last year.”

His sentiments were well founded as in April and again in November last year, stewards had placed bars on Fast Song for refusing to load in the barriers.

So back and forth, the big bay gelding and Burke went to the barrier trials in Rockhampton and Yeppoon and gradually Fast Song seemed to overcome his fear of the barriers and gradually conform.

For Fast Song and his patient but albeit frustrated keeper Burke, “D-Day” arrived on November 23 last year when Fast Song trialled and loaded successfully in a Callaghan Park barrier trial.

Unconvinced and with good reason to be sceptical, Burke said just after the trial – “it’s not over until the Fat Lady sings.”

“I want to see him do it (load) again consecutively and that will give me and him more confidence.”

This Fast Song did on December 6 when he again trialled successfully at Callaghan Park and indeed the “Fat Lady” had well and truly sung with a stylish performance.

Song, as quiet as a mouse, loaded and ran a fighting second in a Rockhampton Benchmark race over 1100 metres on December 18 beating home race winners in the process.

Wednesday gone, he started a $1.80 favourite when jockey Ashley Butler darted to the lead and fought doggedly to hold off Scorcia Road by a long neck.

Races

5

Rockhampton | Rockhampton Jockey Club Inc | 2:44 PM

TAB Maiden Handicap

Phillip Burke, his wife Barb and Fast Song’s trackwork rider and strapper Alisha Donald greeted him lovingly and enthusiastically as he made that long-awaited walk into the first placegetter’s stall.

“Isn’t he just lovely,” Barb Burke said.

“There are so many people to thank including jockey Sonja Wiseman and naturally Ashley Butler and of course the barrier boys and starter.”

It seemed one of the keys in overcoming Fast Song’s barrier shyness was getting him out of the parade yard early and straight to the starting stalls without company and loaded immediately.

This ploy has been used at Callaghan Park over the years and in more recent times with another barrier rogue in the barred Shrouded who won seven races there.

With a record of five starts for four seconds and a win, there is no doubting that Fast Song is an untapped talent capable of many more wins.

There were no deserved long-awaited celebrations on Wednesday night after the win as Burke had to fly to Brisbane the next day for a three-weekly hospital visit for ongoing treatment.

However, for the former long-standing harness racing identity and talented horseman and farrier Burke, the best tonic for his health was delivered at around 2.45pm on Wednesday when winner Fast Song put a spring into his step.