The memorable Kennard Syndicates,All Stars Stable Miracle Mile Quin ella. This Time Spankem is in Charge

Even though never  the headline seeker,Spankem seems to have slipped quietly into retirement without the fanfare his record deserved. But the important people remember.

Spankem’s record would be considered exceptional by most measures including that memorable Miracle Mile win giving Mark  his first winning drive in the race.

With the ill luck that often dogged him he had been forced to miss the Chariots of Fire with a foot abcess and Mark and Natalie considered sending him home before he bounced back with two Group Ones, running his last 800 in 52.6 in the Mile giving nothing else a chance and joining some great names who have won the classic as a four year old. On the same night the stable took out the NSW Oaks (Princess Tiffany) and the Ladyship Mile ( Dream About Me)-a fabulous feat

Mark recalls an amusing sidelight to the Miracle Mile win

“There was a two day isolation period before the Canadian Club and that affected our timetable for final work for Spankem because of his setback. I approached the authorities for some dispensation. They not only said no but  when the Miracle Mile came up  they made it three days !”

“He was a terrific horse for his owners. Not a champion maybe but he used to try his best all the time and his record is outstanding. He probably didn’t get the attention he deserved”

 In some ways Spankem’s failures,few though they were, underlined his quality.

Spankem in Trial Mode Showing His Powerful Physique and Style

He  began racing in December 2016 as a two year old and had his last race six years and one day later in the Invercargill Cup when he finished fourth-durable for a horse who had had his issues. A suspensory injury out of that race meant the end of a stellar career.

He had 67 starts, won a touch under $2m, and was in the first four in 61 of them.He lost the driver in one -the only time he was not in the first four in 14 Australian starts- had three unplaced runs  in Group One races (Derby, Easter Cup, NZ Free for All-a race he also won) and in the G3 Methven Cup (a race he had earlier won).He had needed that and was placed in the Flying Stakes G2) at his next start.

In addition a remarkable number of seconds and thirds were in rich races won by stablemates like Chase Auckland,Self Assured, The Devil’s Own, Ashley Locaz,Cruz Bromac etc but he was always in there doing his best.

“That was the thing that stood out about him” said Natalie. 

“He was always up for the fight. He  wanted to be there and he gave his best every time. Sometimes not quite good enough but always his best. He was the same in his work at home or anything he did.He was with you all the way”

One Happy Bunch of Owners after 2017 Sires Stakes Final

Spankem, from the family of Armalight, was bought by the Phil and Glenys Kennard syndicate operation for $70,000 as a yearling and they were joined by Ken and Karen Breckon,Jim and Ann Gibbs and Gary and Kerre Woodham, combination which later had great success with several stars in the era. As if a gentle reminder, the syndicate’s  latest two year old, Major Hot, won the Oamaru Juvenile Stakes on Sunday.

They didn’t wait long for a return. As a December two year old he ran two seconds to the brilliant Alta Maestro in Auckland and then second in the Young Guns Final to Mach Shard, another outstanding juvenile. It was a heroic performance,settling last coming wide at the turn and almost running down the winner who had enjoyed a soft run.

He then  ran third in the Sales Final and followed the first Group One, the 2yo Sires Stakes Final in 2017. A tough run early then well placed, he beat off his previous superiors in impressive fashion. He was third in the Harness Jewels to stablemates Ashley Locaz (40/1 in 1.51.9) and The Devil’s Own,another of the Spankem syndicate’s stars and a Sales Final winner at two who later clocked 1.48 in the US.

Ken,Gary,Phil,Jim,Karen,Ann, Glenys and Kerri at Horse of the Year Awards

Spankem  wasn’t able to add the three year old Sires Stakes final having little luck and appearing a little below his best.He didn’t appear for a month posting another third to Chase Auckland in the Sales Final in Auckland.

He went on a Victorian Derby search the following month winning his heat but 4th in the final to Colt Thirty One,Poster Boy and The Devil’s Own.

Then followed one of the setbacks that  dogged his career and it was October before he raced again starting with two third placings with only stablemates ahead of him and then a good win in the $45,000 Group Two Kaikoura Cup in the hands of Tim Williams , running the 2400 in 2.57.8;Cruz Bromac,Eamon Maguire and Star Galleria were among the also rans.For a four year old it was a top effort.

Cruz Bromac and Turn It Up turned the tables in the NZ Free for All and then Spankem was set for a lengthy Australian campaign beginning with the Inter Dominions in December. He won two heats  but had to settle for 4th in the final won by Tiger Tara in a 1.53.4 mile rate over 2760m.

Warmed up again  in  January  he went close to Group One success with a second in the Bonanza (to Poster Boy) before going one better in the Canadian Club Sprint, an upside down race but run in a sizzling overall 1.51.5  including a final quarter of 25.6-  sensational going then.

But the best was yet to come.That was  when Spankem beat stablemate Thefixer (another Kennard Syndicates horse ) in that  brilliant 1.47.7 Miracle Mile  the last quarter even better at 25.4. 

He led virtually throughout with stablemate Thefixer trailing and  the only one getting close. It was Spankem’s farewell to Sydney with only a brief Queensland campaign two months later to follow in Australia for the stable of Natalie’s sister, Kylie, who still does the business with that other  former top four year old from All Stars in Turn It Up. Ann and Jim Gibbs also had a share when he was winning top races like the Harness Jewels and who was runner up to Spankem in his Taylor Mile/Messenger double.

Ann and Jim retired from yearling purchases this year after many years of notable success with All Stars.

In between Spankem was unable to overcome the back mark of 20m in the Easter Cup after making a big run to challenge at the turn, the slushy track that he never really appreciated not helping.

However it took more than a hard 3200 to knock Spankem’s ambition and the following month,now with Natalie the pilot, he won the Taylor Mile/Messenger double adding two more G1’s.

Spankem’s spring of 2019 led him to start favourite in the New Zealand Cup after wins in the Canterbury Classic and in the Ashburton Flying Stakes- in which All Stars notched the first five placings. 

At the Cup meeting however luck deserted he and Mark at crucial times.In the Cup he had to make a run in the open on speed to lead and while Mark stole some time down the back they just failed to stall the challenge of Cruz Bromac the two sharing the same 3.56.9 time. In the FFA ,denied the early lead, Spankem was left parked,losing third late to dream runs for Chase Auckland and Thefixer.It was a courageous effort.

Injury then sidelined him for nearly a year,his NZ Cup leadups being chiefly a win in the Methven Cup and a third  in the Flying Stakes   before a game bid to win the Cup he deserved.

“I’m Coming After You!” Spankem Readies for Another Battle

Back early,Natalie took him round the field to lead which gave a horse of the calibre of Self Assured the trail. It was all over when Self Assured swept to the front but Spankem stuck on with his usual courage to hold second.

His reward came in the Free for All three days later,blazing an opening section in 24 for Natalie signalling her intent and getting a cruisy run afterward to win with some ease. 

A series of placings in big races followed including an Auckland Cup 2nd to Amazing Dream the next generation for All Stars; and to Self Assured in the Easter Cup and then the Queensland campaign. From July he was not seen out until February and three starts later posted his fastest New Zealand mile time winning the Taylor Mile in 1.52.2 for another Group One and another second in the Auckland Cup to Self Assured again.

Last year in the tradition of the best old time iron horses,he was back for the Cup meeting and ran third in the big one to Copy That after trailing. There were further placings before the Invercargill Cup, his swansong and yet another G1 3200m placing.

Natalie feels his final placing of fourth had an excuse 

“I have to say that I was not sure he should have been racing in it. I had worked him and felt he was just not quite right. That one was not on me” 

But it was Spankem and naturally he would try his heart out and run a good race in the circumstances.

Since then Spankem has been with equine massage  operator and general   specialist in horse handling, Karolyn Norton,a former All Stars stable manager.

“He’s in  the right place to be a show horse or anything else in he equine field ” Natalie said.

“He’s a gorgeous looking animal and that with his positive attitude means he will find a good home. He was a dream to handle, very sensible and co-operative. 

And the elephant in the room-the suspicion that he may not have been a real stayer, even given some of the 3200m times he recorded ?

It seems to have substance in that the number of 3200 races he competed in he never managed to win one even though he could break 3.55 chasing others at his peak.

Natalie partly agrees with that assessment.

“I think he was best  to about 2800 and after that it was heart and luck. He still had a better 3200 record than many by the times he ran.He was such a neat horse in any race I drove him”     

Neat, and in a hot pacing era, very very good and very very willing. 

You could hardly ask for more.Sometimes the substance beats the glamour.

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