One of the runners in the Country Championships Qualifier in Grafton, NSW, on Sunday March 17, 2019.
One of the runners in the Country Championships Qualifier in Grafton, NSW, on Sunday March 17, 2019. Contributed

Big stable discard ready to turn career around

RACING: If there was ever a horse who deserved a shot at the big time it was Rakhish.

The Kiwi-bred gelding's story is a rags to riches tale but in reverse. A story of ultimate redemption.

A discard from one of the greatest stables in Australia, Rakhish was given a second chance by the Henley Racing team.

Now, he stands on the edge of glory.

The four-year-old will launch from barrier three in tomorrow's $150,000 NRRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m), with one eye set on the rich final at Randwick on April 6.

But it was a journey that started much longer ago. And one that was not always easy.

"I am very excited, and I am proud,” Fleur Henley said. "He was bought for this reason.

"All of his form suggested he deserved to be in this race, and to have him in is fantastic.”

Henley, the wife and training partner of Scott Henley, had spotted the tried gelding on the Inglis online sales a little under a year ago.

A progeny of former Cox Plate-winning stallion Savabeel, Rakhish was purchased for $150,000 as a yearling by the famed Whitby Bloodstock.

He was quickly put under the care of the Henley's former boss Gai Waterhouse and partner Adrian Bott, before going on to break maiden status in his second race at the provincials in Wyong.

But the troublesome gelding would soon find the wrong side of the racing powerhouse discarded from the stable.

It was love at first sight for Henley.

"I have never wanted a horse so badly,” she said. "I thought he was such a cracking type.

"When I was watching his race replays, I thought he was like a tiger. I told Scott from the get go that I wanted the horse.

"He only had four starts, he had won over 1350m and had placed over the 1500m.”

Henley outlasted one other potential buyer to snaffle up the gelding for only $8000. From $150,000 three years ago, it almost felt like a steal.

But she knew there was always going to be a catch.

"When he came from Gai's he definitely had a few niggles,” Henley said.

"I guess when you are buying a horse, you are buying someone else's problem. No one ever sells you a horse in perfect order.”

An aggressive addition to Henley's Turf St stables, the husband-and-wife training duo soon earnt the ire of the gelding.

"When he was at Gai's he almost put three people in hospital, he was like Hannibal Lecter,” she said.

"He was a savage. He bit Scott one time, and my 80-year-old father before that. But then he got me one day, tore a nice hole in my finger.”

Henley could tell there was something wrong. Something was making him agitated.

The gelding was suffering. He had contracted several internal abscesses.

The team turned to one of the more unique methods of treating his pain, but one that is growing in popularity in the industry, equine acupuncture.

Soon the horse had turned a corner. From a mauling machine to a soft teddy bear, Rakhish improve dramatically in the stables and on the track.

Rakhish ran a flashing second at his native Grafton track, before backing it up with a strong third place above a class at the Gold Coast.

But it was his resilient effort over the 1350m last start at Doomben that has impressed his biggest fan the most.

"I have never seen a horse try that hard in a race, he gave everything he had at Doomben,” she said.

Anthony Allen will take the reins on all six of Henley's chances at Grafton tomorrow.