Old timer’s ‘family pet’ can secure Cup dream
Terry Kelly thought the chances of having a Melbourne Cup runner had passed him by after 30 years as a trainer.
But a horse he likens to a Kenyan long-distance runner could change that on Saturday.
Skelm will take his place in The Andrew Ramsden, which carries a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup for the winner. Kelly says Skelm has the form to secure the coveted Cup start at Flemington.
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"There's no secret I've been around a long time. I'm 70 next month and having a Melbourne Cup runner would be a dream come true," he said.
"He's running really well. He flew home to finish third in the Mornington Cup behind a good horse in Aktau, then last start at Flemington he settled a bit closer than I expected and had to make a run early when the sprint went on and he was still fighting at the finish."
Skelm finished fourth behind Haky, but beat last year's Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare (fifth).
Kelly said Skelm was a small horse at about 420kg but thrived on his work.
"He loves getting out over a trip and he's got no weight on him like those great Kenyan runners," he said.
"He's been in work a long time, but it's not a normal preparation here.
"He goes out for an hour and a half and he's going through paddocks full of sheep and cattle.
"Skelm has so much personality. He's more like our pet dog than a horse."
Kelly has half a dozen horses in work on a farm at Coghills Creek, a fully contained training complex with a grass track and a sand track 20 minutes from Ballarat racecourse.
Also training there is jockey John Allen's partner Emma Church, who has just taken out a trainer's licence and has six horses in work.
Church is the niece of Kelly's partner Angela Bridges.
Kelly said Skelm, who will be ridden by Ben Melham, lived in a paddock outside his house and called out to them each morning.
He paid $12,000 for the son of Animal Kingdom as an unraced three-year-old over two years ago from Godolphin.
Skelm is raced by a large group of stable supporters.
MAHER ADMITS ERROR
Ciaron Maher has found human error led to his stable being charged for a positive swab after filly Piccatric won her maiden at Sale on February 28.
Maher was told by stewards late last month that Piccatric had tested positive to Furosemide, a permitted treatment that can't be used within a day of a race.
He was yesterday charged with presenting Piccatric to the races with a prohibited substance.
Maher conducted an internal review and discovered that Piccatric was mistakenly treated with Furosemide instead of Staydayz.
Maher has provided stewards with the evidence supporting his finding.
"We accept the RV stewards' charge and will assist at the Victorian Racing Tribunal hearing," he said.
"While the incident is regrettable, we are pleased that the internal review has identified the cause.''
Maher said the stable had implemented improvements in its systems to ensure the prevention of another occurrence.