The former employee of Billy Haughton was delighted when his charge defeated chief rival King Of Swing in the Group 1 Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park.
by Adam Hamilton
(Editor’s note: HRU is pleased to expand its coverage to Australia and New Zealand. We are proud to announce that every two weeks, beginning today, we will feature the work of veteran horse racing journalist Adam Hamilton, the TABCorp head of media communications and talent).
When Ray Green was working for Billy Haughton back in the 1980s, he let his mind wander to one day training a champion of his own.
In a rewarding story of persistence, the New Zealand-based Green has found that champion deep into the twilight of his career as a 75-year-old.
Copy That, a compact 4-year-old son of American Ideal, is the best horse Green has trained and his first true champion. He took his record to 21 wins (and 10 placings) from just 40 starts when he upstaged Australasia’s best pacer, King Of Swing, in the Group 1 Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park in Brisbane last Saturday night (July 17).
He locks horns again with King Of Swing and a great support case in Queensland’s biggest race, the $250,000 Group 1 Blacks A Fake, this Saturday night (July 24).
“He is the best horse I’ve had, the horse I’ve been looking for all my career. He was the best of his 3-year-old crop at home and he’s stepped straight into open-class racing so successfully. It’s so exciting,” Green said.
His champion driver Anthony Butt added: “He’s got the world at his feet now. His manners are perfect, he’s the complete package, so versatile.”
But it wasn’t always that way.
“Oh no, he was very challenging early. He could gallop in a heartbeat and for no reason. He took a lot of time to get right, but he always had amazing raw speed,” Green said.
Green’s experience and learnings from stints all-around the world, including three different periods in North America, have no doubt helped him educate and shape Copy That.
“I’ve been lucky to have travelled a lot in my life and to have trained in some great places with some terrific people,” he said. “My first stint was in North Wales of all places, where I trained back in 1972 for the last season of racing at the Prestatin track before it closed. After that I had some time at Torino in northern Italy.”
And what about the U.S.?
“Three stints there at different times, at Florida a couple of times and three years in Maryland as well,” Green said. “I worked for Billy Haughton, who was a terrific person and gave me a great opportunity. He was a real legend. It was a great learning time, but very different because it was a factory-type operation, huge and quite impersonal.”
These days Green is the head trainer of the huge Lincoln Farms operation, at Pukekohe, just outside Auckland in New Zealand. Their business model is to buy yearlings, develop them and sell. Ironically, something Green did with King Of Swing, who was sold to Western Australia for huge money as an early three-year-old.
“I loved him. It’s hard to let them go when they are that good, but money talks,” he said. “Copy That was sold as well, but thankfully, Merv Butterworth (his Australian owner) elected to leave him with us to train and that’s been a real bonus.”
After this week’s Blacks A Fake, Copy That returns home for a short spell before aiming at NZ’s biggest race, the Group 1 NZ Cup, at Addington in Christchurch on Nov. 9. He was favourite for last year’s Cup, but a shambolic standing start ruined his chances.