By sports editor Russell Bennett
Pakenham’s own Mr Quickie has rapidly built up a booming following throughout Gippsland and the south east as he prepares for a tilt at the $5 million All-Star Mile at Caulfield next month.
The first Group 1 winner to be trained out of Racing.com Park, the four-year-old gelding is currently seventh in the voting for the All-Star Mile, with the 10 highest vote-getters receiving automatic entry into the race.
Whole communities, cities, and even states are rallying behind horses from across Australia and New Zealand in the race to secure a spot in the final field for the 1600-metre showdown.
In excess of 5000 votes have been cast for the Phillip Stokes-trained star at this stage, with locals still having up until Sunday night to lodge their vote online.
But it should be noted that a leaderboard blackout will come into effect on the voting website at 10pm tonight (Friday).
In a huge boost to the Mr Quickie campaign, legendary hoop Damien Oliver has taken the ride for the event.
Jeff O’Connor from Stokes Racing told the Gazette that locals from across the region, and even further into Gippsland, were doing whatever they possibly could to help Mr Quickie’s cause.
“It’s been proven, with this race, that horses from interstate don’t seem to have much trouble getting in – if you’ve got one good horse in South Australia, (and) one good horse in Queensland, the whole state will get behind them,” he said.
“This year we’re seeing the same with New Zealand, too.
“We know the public around this area is right behind Mr Quickie, and that’s definitely helped the voting and getting him into the race.”
O’Connor acknowledged the significance of such a proud and passionate racing community having its own runner to rally behind.
“From Pakenham, to Longwarry, to Moe, to Sale and even Bairnsdale – they’re all getting behind him,” he said.
“I’d like to think anyone from Pakenham to out in the south-east is right behind him.”
O’Connor also emphasised the importance of having the support of the Pakenham Racing Club behind Mr Quickie’s push.
“It’s a young, progressive club and it’s a new beginning for them,” he said.
“To have them support this the way they have has been fantastic.”
Mr Quickie hasn’t raced since the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup in October, with connections – including Wylie Dalziel and Peter Moody as part of the ownership group – turning down the chance to race him in the Melbourne Cup, despite being guaranteed a start.
But his first-up form is typically impressive, and after a couple of barrier trials in the coming weeks, O’Connor said he’d be ready for his “grand final”.
Wade Calderwood from the Pakenham Racing Club explained just how huge it would be to see the locally-trained Queensland Derby winner – which also finished an impressive third in the Makybe Diva Stakes – take his place in the All-Star Mile field.
“Pakenham Racing Club members and locals have really got behind the initiative to vote for Mr Quickie,” he said.
“Given he is our first Group 1 winning horse from Pakenham, it would be a huge result to see him get up for our local club.
“Phillip Stokes has had a tremendous strike-rate since setting up base here over 12 months ago, and it would be further testament to the quality of the Pakenham training facilities and set-up to see Mr Quickie salute the judge at Caulfield on March 14.
“All of Pakenham will be riding with him.”
Mr Quickie beat eventual Melbourne Cup winner Vow and Declare to the line in the Queensland Derby last June.
To vote for Mr Quickie’s All-Star Mile push before Sunday’s deadline, visit www.allstarmile.com.au.
Those who vote for their favourite horse in the All-Star Mile will be in the running to win a share in $500,000, with the first prize being $250,000.