by Adam Hamilton
Down Under’s champion pacer Lochinvar Art is on the verge of a remarkable title defence in one of our greatest races.
When Lochinvar Art won last year’s $A500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup in Melbourne, it was his 10th win from his past 11 starts and he was the toast of the sport.
He was starting to earn comparisons with some of the all-time greats.
But, as so sadly often happens to the great horses, injury intervened.
Just days after the Hunter Cup, when Lochinvar Art was preparing for a Sydney raid on the $1Amil Miracle Mile, a nasty hoof abscess emerged. It was to be the start of a nightmare for trainer/driver David Moran.
As Moran raced time to get Lochinvar Art through the setback and into a Miracle Mile lead-up race, he found the abscess had actually spread deeper up the leg and could even be career-threatening.
The biggest star in the game in this part of the world could have run his last race, while on the springboard to eternal greatness.
“It was a scary few weeks. We just couldn’t get it under control,” Moran said.
Surgery, lots of treatment and a long rehabilitation program later and Lochinvar Art returned to the races last Saturday night (Jan. 15)… 49 weeks after he won that Hunter Cup.
While the son of Modern Art didn’t win, it was a victory on so many levels in the eyes of Moran and owner Kevin Gordon.
“You can’t ask for any more than that. He did all the work at a crunch stage when the leaders quickened-up. He still forged to the front and it was only late when the effort told and his condition gave out that a lovely horse (Spirit Of St Louis) ran him down,” Moran said.
“I knew he was fit, but you can only get them so fit without a race. He’ll come on a lot for that.”
But can he peak a complete a remarkable back-to-back Hunter Cup victories in less than three weeks from now?
“Based on that run and the fact I’ll get another one into him, yes. He’s right where I need him now. He thrives on racing. I think he’ll be right at his top or very close to it for the Hunter Cup,” Moran said.
In a lovely twist of camaraderie, one of Moran’s major on track rivals, the man who co-trains and will drive his major Hunter Cup rival, Luke McCarthy, was instrumental on Lochinvar Art’s recovery.
“I’m good mates with Luke and he and Belinda (McCarthy’s wife) have the most amazing facilities at their place (Cobbitty Equine). They did all the rehab and I couldn’t believe how great and forward the horse was when I picked him up about a month ago,” Moran said.
Lochinvar Art has beaten McCarthy’s superstar King Of Swing at their past two meetings in Victoria’s two biggest races, the Hunter Cup and Victoria Cup.
They will lock horns again on Feb. 5.
Oh, and just to add another layer to the resurrection of Lochinvar Art, he also stood his first season at stud, somewhat of a cameo, during his rehab phase with the McCarthys.
“Part of their set-up is a stud farm as well, so we decided to give ‘Arty’ his chance to serve a few mares as well. He served about 30 I think,” Moran said.
Lochinvar Art will have one more lead-up race, either at Ballarat this Saturday or Melton the week after, before chasing one of the most remarkable Hunter Cup wins in the history of the great race.
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It was great to spend a bit of time with the rampaging McCarthy brothers during their time back in Australia.
Andy and Todd McCarthy are headed back to the US with bold ambitions for 2022.
And what’s very clear is they now consider the U.S. home and have no plans to move back to Australia any time soon.
“No, it (the U.S.) is home now. Maybe when I retire we might think about moving back to Australia, but that’s a long way off. We love it over there, the people are so great,” Andy said.
Todd added: “It surprise me a bit how quickly it felt like home to me, too. Sure, I miss family and friends back here, but the States is home for me now. And I can’t wait to get back into it.
“It’s been a really good, fun few weeks back here and the timing works well, but I had really had some momentum going towards the end of year and there’s a lot of horses I can’t wait to team up with again.”