The following beautiful piece by renowned writer Andrew Rule was published in the Sunday Herald Sun on 18 December…


How Rocks In My Head outran death to become a 100-1 horse

Miracles do happen. Sometimes they turn to fairytales. This one did. It starts with a thoroughbred mare labouring to give birth four years ago.

After eight hours, the mare was exhausted and the foal hopelessly jammed. The experts thought the baby colt was dead, or doomed, because its neck was turned backwards in the birth canal.

Three vets tried and failed to deliver the foal before the oldest and most experienced vet tried one last trick.

They gave the mare an anaesthetic and lifted her with a tractor. Then the old vet used a hook once used to deliver dead foals and calves. He caught the foal’s eye socket and dragged its head around. It worked. But when the foal finally slid on to the stable floor it wasn’t breathing.

They tried to revive the colt, long and gangly with a white blaze. He started breathing, which was the first miracle.

The vets told the mare’s owner if he took the colt to their clinic in Bendigo — half an hour away from his Sutton Grange property — it could be given oxygen and drugs and half a chance.

“I threw it in the back of the ute on a horse rug,” recalls the owner, hobby trainer and businessman Paul Banks. The unconscious foal lay there, barely breathing.

Twenty minutes later, as Banks drove towards Bendigo, he glanced in the rear mirror and was shocked to see the foal was standing in the back of his ute, swaying drunkenly on giraffe legs.

Trainer Paul Banks at Sutton Grange (Tony Gough-Herald Sun)

Trainer Paul Banks at Sutton Grange (Tony Gough-Herald Sun)

Instinctively, he hit the brakes. The foal hit the rear window with a sickening thud. This time it must be dead, he thought, but jumped in the back and started to pump on its ribcage to try to revive it.

A tradesman pulled up, thinking the blood-covered motorist was trying to save a human.

To the tradie’s amazement, Banks carried the twitching foal to the door of the brand new ute and put it on the seat. He drove one-handed, his other holding down the foal.

At the clinic, the foal got oxygen, a drip and a prayer. About half of such oxygen-deprived foals die but this one didn’t.

After a week of intensive care it was out of danger but its future seemed dim. Banks bet one of the vets, Mike Whiteford, a bottle of wine that the spindly foal would one day win a race.

It seemed a safe bet to the canny Scottish vet. The colt had been born four months later than thousands of others — and was humbly bred.

His mother, Western Desire, had a couple of older progeny, neither of which had yet hit the track. His sire, Shield, had never raced and was standing at stud free of charge

(TBV note: Shield is a half brother by Redoute’s Choice to former Darley Northwood sire Domesday. Shield stood at Nagambie’s Alan Hills Farm for three season before being exported to China in 2013)).

Someone told Banks he had “rocks in his head” if he thought he could turn his ugly duckling into a racehorse. He responded by naming the youngster Rocks In My Head, “Rocky” for short. But he didn’t give up.

Rocks In My Head had his first start last June on the Geelong synthetic track. He ran seventh of nine at 60-1. Two starts later he ran last of 12 at the same track at 100-1. Bookmakers didn’t rate him then or in his next five starts.

Neither did anyone except his part-owner, breeder and trainer. “He just needs time before the penny drops,” he said to people who tried not to laugh. And he believed it.

Which is why, before Rocks In My Head burst through the field to win easily at his eighth start last week — at Geelong on Thursday — Banks had a good bet on him at 100-1, then another at 120-1. Add the $15,000 prizemoney and he is well ahead. There’s your fairy story.

Except for Mike Whiteford, the vet who bet against the colt making it as a racehorse four years ago.

“It started out as just a bottle of something alcoholic,” he lamented on Friday. “But now Banksy is saying I owe him a bottle of Grange.”

If “Rocky” turns into the next Prince Of Penzance, it’s going to be embarrassing.

His mum, Western Desire, has been given away to a farm to breed stock horses. And Shield — now sire of three winners — has been sold to an obscure stud in Mongolia.

That’s racing.

Read the Herald Sun article.

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