One El Of A Family Says Little

Jun 25, 2010

Racehorse trainers, like any professionals, differ greatly in many respects from the way they go about their work, to the quality of the finished product, however one thing remains the same with them all.

When they train a horse with above average ability, they will stick with the family.

Just a fortnight ago trainer Tony Vasil debuted the fourth of Elvstroem's brothers to race since the now famous stallion, of which Vasil has successfully guided the careers of three.

On June 29th trainer Colin Little will continue his own family affair when the career of Cox Plate winner El Segundo's full brother 'El Stupendo' begins at Geelong.

Little's affinity with the El Segundo bloodline began in the early nineties when he paid, what he considered at the time, a fortune for a weanling filly who would go on to be named Palos Verdes.

“I paid about $14,000 for this filly, which I thought was a fortune at the time,” said Little.

“Thankfully the vendor said that he would keep 50 per cent, but in return to not send him a bill which suited me at the time because it meant I had half of the horse already sold.

“Unfortunately it took me another three years to sell the rest,” added Little with a wry smile.

Little almost raced the classy mare himself but on the cusp of her career he offered the remaining shares as compensation for an outstanding bill and it wasn't long before she started burning the track.

“She was a slow maturing filly and when she was almost ready to race I received a bill for some advertising so I asked them if they had ever considered owning a racehorse, the rest is history as they say” said Little.

“She was a terrific mare for us, excelling in the summer months and at one stage held three track records after winning the Manion Cup, which is a mile and a half race at Rosehill, the Hobart Cup and in the Mornington Cup,” he added.

After succumbing to a tendon injury at the peak of her career Palos Verdes was retired to her original vendors stud but the partnership has continued to breed and race her progeny.

“The original Vendor Phillip Brown still owns half the horse and the other owners still front up for the service fees each season,” said Little who admitted it wasn't all plain sailing.

“The first of her progeny was a horse called 'The Snake' and he was exactly that,” joked Little

“I think its first run in a race was a 2000m maiden and it wasn't worth a crumpet.”

El Segundo, by Pins, was the next foal to race for the mare and couldn't have been more different from the initial failure winning twelve times for almost four million in prize money, including a Cox Plate, and it was clear Little would have to up the ante if he wanted to keep racing the family.

“After El Segundo started winning I knew that the progeny would sky-rocket in price,” said Little.

“She produced a magnificent colt which I had to pay $500,000 for, but unfortunately 'El Hermano' as we named him got an infected pedal bone ending any chance he had to race and costing us almost $60,000 in vet bills.”

“Eventually, after four to six months in a small recovery box with a drip coming from the ceiling, they were able to save his life but had to cut so much of the bone away that he now has a little donkey foot,” laughed Little who still thinks fondly of the stallion who now services 140 mares back in New Zealand.

El Stupendo is a bit on an enigma to Little, not resembling any of his siblings nor his mother and the rising four-year-old has taken longer than the trainer would've liked to get to the racetrack.

“He is absolutely nothing like any of them, not on the track, not in the box, not at all," said Little.

“He was a sluggish and stocky colt who would just keep going shin-sore.

“We'd give him decent spells and easy preps but when we would get him to trials he would go shin-sore again.

Little isn't expecting another El Segundo but is confident the gelding will find his own niche around the mile.

“Obviously very few have the speed or brilliance of his brother El Segundo," said Little.

“I'm hoping to keep him off the bog tracks but I think he will be hard to beat when he gets out over the mile and can relax as I believe his high cruising speed will hold him in good stead.

Colin Little is no different than any of us really, if you know something works you stick to it and with Palos Verdes throwing her first filly last season it's most likely Little will be regretting his decision to not keep Palos Verdes for a few more years yet.