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Retirement confirmed for star sprinter Hectorjayjay

By Andrew Adermann

HectorJayJay.jpgThe 2017 Blacks A Fake winner Hectorjayjay has been retired from racing after suffering another injury setback.

The champion sprinter was most recently under the care of Logan-based trainer Jack Butler, who had been working relentlessly with the gelding to get him back to the track after almost two years away.

In 2018, connections of the nine-year-old gelding were told he may never race again after sustaining a series of serious leg injuries, however in May of this year, a day many thought would never happen finally arrived; Hector returned to Albion Park with an impressive third placing, before claiming victory one week later - his first in 683 days.

Hector was set to return to the track this weekend following a minor joint problem, but injury has once again cruelled the star, with the trainer calling time on his incredible career just days before he attempted his final comeback.

“He’s had another suspensory issue, which is what laid him off before I got him,” Butler said.

“I took him to fast work yesterday and everything was fine but just as he was warming down I felt like something wasn’t 100% and I could tell there was a little bit of filling in the suspensory.

“I always said to the owner that if that comes back then we’ll have to pull the pin.

“The owner was gutted when I told him, we had him all ready to roll for Saturday night and he’s probably as fit as I’ve had him since he’s been here, but I rang Matt and he knew straight away that something was wrong.”

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 his 80-race career, he amassed 44 wins and a further 22 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 behind the driving of the late Gavin Lang, 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 2,680-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.

Albion Park

2017 UBET BLACKS A FAKE QUEENSLAND CHAMPIONSHIP (G1) 2680m

“He’s just a star, an absolute tradesman and a beautiful animal to work with,” Butler said.

“I never had him in his prime but you could just see how good he was, it’s just a shame because his heart is too big for his legs.”

Following that Group 1 win, a serious leg injury kept Hector off the track for almost a year, and only raced on one more occasion – a win at Kilmore in June 2018 - before his career temporarily came to a close.

Speaking on this week’s comeback that wasn’t meant to be, owner Matt McLellan told Harnesslink that he went from excited to heartbroken when Butler informed him of the news.

“There I was waiting for the Albion Park fields to come out for his return race this weekend when I got the news - it was devastating,” McLellan said.

“I’m so sad for the horse and for Jack, who’s put some much time in nursing him back.

“We got so close, we had those three runs earlier this year and gave him a break and he was ready to go again; he looked so good winning that trial a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t to be.

“I have no regrets about the four years spent trying to get him back, I’d always have wondered ‘what if’ otherwise.

“Now it’s about finding him a good home and he’s such an active and competitive horse, something like dressage could be ideal for him. We’ll make sure he finds a great home.”

Butler echoed his owner’s sentiments and remains thankful that he was given the opportunity to work with a horse of Hector’s ilk and get him back to the track, something he classes as an achievement in itself.

“It’s an achievement for me that I was able to get him back to the track in the first place, and it’s a learning curve for me as a trainer – it was great to get that opportunity to train such a super horse like him,” Butler said.

“I learnt a hell of a lot by having him around.”

Albion Park

GARRARD'S 2017 SUNSHINE SPRINT (G2) 1660m