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Lion-hearted Absolut Artie shows size doesn't matter

By Tony McMahon

Renowned author Mark Twain could well have been talking about the racehorse Absolut Artie with his famous quote – “it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Lion hearted racehorse Absolut Artie, one of the smallest horses of the 16 starters in Friday’s $85K Rockhampton Cup (1600m) and the least experienced proved the virtue of Twain’s quote.

Dashed out of gates from an outside barrier draw, front running grey Absolut Artie led into the 600-metre mark Callaghan Park home straight with a clear margin before demonstrating his fighting spirit along its entirety.

Sent out the $3.60 favourite, Absolut Artie responded courageously to jockey Ryan Wiggins’ desperate urgings to cling on and beat another grey local, Jim O’Shea’s $17 chance Barachiel by bare millimetres.

Officially the margin was 0.2 lengths, while third placed Shiranda was just under half-a-length from the winner; while in a blanket finish less than a length separated the first five placegetters.

While Absolut Artie deserved the plaudits of the restricted crowd of 300 racegoers to which his regular partner Ryan Wiggins rightly responded, the architect of the win was trainer Ricky Vale.

Vale watched the race from the grandstand and with raucous screams of excitement and encouragement, jumped to his feet in the closing stages to cheer his courageous horse on.

Besieged by well-wishers, Vale was naturally cock-a-hoop and praised his game grey.

“He gives so much, he deserved that Rocky Cup win,” he said.

“It is fantastic when you think he was a maiden this time last year.”



Absolut Artie was placed in that class at the corresponding meeting in 2019 but since then under Vale’s mentorship, he has won nine races, the last three in succession.

As he paraded so proudly in the yard before the Cup, it was testimony to Vale’s training prowess that Absolut Artie showed no visible physical concerning lines from two gutsy winning runs on June 23 and then again on July 7.

Aware that his little warrior had done all that was asked of him by winning the Rockhampton Cup, Vale indicated that Absolut Artie may not press on with a northern Cups campaign.

For Brisbane jockey Ryan Wiggins, the Cup success was the main pin of yet another treble of winners at a Rockhampton TAB meeting.

Earlier he had won on Jarrod Wehlow’s North Afrika ($5.50) and Only Wanna Sing ($2.90).

The trio of winners continued similar feats at the last two Rockhampton meetings on June 23 and July 7, which explains why the Brisbane-based Wiggins has such a following at Callaghan Park.

In Friday’s $65,000 Newmarket over 1200 metres, the Wiggins-Wehlow combo with Inquiry fell victim to his outside draw and 61.5kg when coming home in sixth behind the Darryl Hansen-trained Doctor Zous.

An outsider in the Kevin Hansen-trained $41 shot Casino thoughts was a fighting second while John Manzelmann’s Drumbeat’s Choice (also $41) was third.

Race favourite - the Graeme Green-trained Master Jamie - led but compounded running one of the most disappointing races of his stellar career coming in seventh.

Earlier, Green’s Hallowed Crown filly Kotabharu made it two wins from as many starts in claiming the rich QTIS bonuses in the 2YO Handicap over the 1300-metre distance.

Her stablemate Matagorda finished third, with Dacxi Kaboom separating the pair making a race trifecta for the Oaklands Stud, Toowoomba bred juveniles.

One of the most barnstorming wins on the nine race Cup day program was that of the Clinton Taylor-trained and family owned horse Finucane Missile in the Class 3 over 1400 metres.

Jumping at $7, it was the Smart Missile gelding’s third successive win and by coming from a distant last at the straight’s entrance, Finucane Missile demonstrated bigger wins may be in store.

Both trainer Taylor and winning rider Justin Stanley concurred with that prediction, and the jockey suggested a win in a suitable Brisbane race in the near future is likely.

Rockhampton apprentice Dakota Graham claimed the biggest provincial win of her career when the Ian Prizeman-trained Svindal took out the $35,000 Magic Millions 3YO Guineas.