Dreams came true for a small-time Victorian breeder when his homebred horse – who barely made it past two weeks old – won his maiden at Cranbourne.
The victory of the Darren Weir trained and well-named three-year-old The Gatting Ball made a day to remember for breeder-owner Adam Testro.
Having tasted success many times previously as an owner, The Gatting Ball’s was the first horse that Testro, a world-leading gastroentologist, had bred to win.
The Gatting Ball as mentioned has been cleverly named. A son of former Darley shuttler Hard Spun, he is out of the mare Art Of Deception (for those that don’t follow cricket, this is a reference to a memorable wicket delivery by Shane Warne to English batsman Mike Gatting).
Following the win, Testro explained how The Gatting Ball almost didn’t make it as a youngster having developed osteomyelitis – a blood-born bacterial infection – of the shoulder when only a couple of weeks old.
“The little guy almost died as a foal, but he is a fighter, and today he showed the same courage to break his maiden. As a breeder, that was the icing on the cake,” Testro said.
Foaled down at Gary and Helen’s Miranda Park at Hesket in the Macedon Ranges, it was Helen’s attention to detail and horsemanship that quickly identified all was not right with the colt.
“He was showing lameness, had a fever and was lethargic, so Helen quickly called the vet. Being only two weeks old, their immune system can crash quite quickly, so they were referred and sent up to Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital to be in the best of care with Dr Jim Vasey,” Testro recalled.
“Jim tried many different things, x-rays, scopes to check for joint infections and medication, without success, and even performed the complicated operation to remove the dead bone and place antibiotic beads directly into the dead tissue to stimulate the bone to regenerate.
“He said he would let us know in 24 hours if we were winning or losing, and at that point, he gave us the option to push on or let him go. We probably spent the same amount on vet fees as his service fee for Hard Spun, but we are owner-breeders that love our horses, and we weren’t prepared to stop until we were told it was futile.”
“We said to Jim, we will keep paying and trying, but we respect your call if you think he has had enough, but luckily he was a real fighter and finally he turned the corner and came good.”
“He is still now slightly smaller than the average horse, with the infection possibly taking its toll, but he has an enormous heart, and he tries his guts out,” Testro said.
“Even Gary O’Meara always said he had a real fighting spirit, and that he was always the leader of the pack up the hills and the first to the feed.”
Testro purchased the Artie Schiller mare Art Of Deception as a weanling from Burnewang North Pastoral. Raced lightly, she showed talent, but knee problems caused her to feel her legs when under pressure.
Unfortunately, Testro lost the mare after a paddock accident last year. Apart from The Gatting Ball, she also produced a Turffontein filly that is now a two-year-old and in training with Mornington’s Logan McGill.
“We still have a couple of mares that we currently breed, and once they retire they happily find their way to my brother’s farm, Millbrook near Ballarat to be pampered pets or become riding horses,” Testro said.
Meanwhile, Testro indicated that The Gatting Ball may soon be off for a spell having been up racing since April
“He’s no world beater, but luckily he is sound as a bell, so we are hoping he will be a great country horse, that we can have a bit of fun with. The country tracks are a great day out for the kids,” Testro said.