Costa Rolfe



Flashback Friday: Early Draw, late fade

A look back at the 'it' horse of the 2011 spring, Mark Kavanagh's imported galloper December Draw.

Australian Bloodstock’s Gold Trip is tipped to make a big impact at his Australian debut on Saturday, the French import trialling strongly at Albury and possessing the ‘right’ Group One form through placings in the Prix Ganay and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. 

Trundling down the memory lane of imported gallopers that made big early impacts in Australia, one of the first to spring to mind is the Mark Kavanagh-trained December Draw. But unlike Gold Trip – who has been kept safe in markets – this bloke really snuck up on punters. 

Making his Australian debut over the Flemington in May of 2011, it’s easy to see why December Draw SP’d at $26. His 16 UK starts had heralded three wins and six minor placings, with a third in a Listed 2000m race and a ninth of 29 in a Royal Hunt Cup the only form markers of any consequence. A strong late finish and narrow defeat of Under The Hat meant this would be the last time the son of Medecis would be overlooked for the remainder of that year however, jumping at prices ranging from warm to red-hot. 


December Draw wins on his Australian debut. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Owner Richard Pegum – who also imported the subsequent Group One winner My Kingdom Of Fife at around that time – certainly hadn’t been sleeping on December Draw, telling Kavanagh in the lead up to the race that he’d given him the best of the two gallopers to train. 

Extended two furlongs to the Flemington 2000m a fortnight later, December Draw put in perhaps his most dominant career performance, backed in from $6.00 to $4.40 and thrashing Gold In Dubai by five lengths. 

After a short winter spell, December Draw first tarnished his reputation with punters upon resumption at Moonee Valley, unable to get past Philda – who dictated in front – as the $2.15F. 

Redemption would prove swift and emphatic. Assigned his pet distance of 2000m at his next three starts, Kav’s horse went on a tear, belting Green Moon by three-and-a-half at Flemington before handling another Lloyd Williams staying import, At First Sight, stepping up to Group Three level in the Naturalism Stakes to earn a 2kg Caulfield Cup penalty. 

Kav and December Draw horsing around ahead of the 2011 Turnbull Stakes. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Just like that December Draw found himself taking on Group One company, with the Turnbull Stakes both a target race and a stepping stone to Caulfield. Sent out at $2.15, December Draw just got the better of the fiery grey frontrunner Glass Harmonium in a stirring finish for Michael Rodd. 

It was a decent Turnbull that year too with Playing God, Southern Speed, Rekindled Interest, Shamrocker, Efficient and Linton among the beaten brigade. 

But just as swiftly as it had ascended, so did December Draw’s star begin to fade. Rodd had expressed concern over the possibility of a raucous Caulfield Cup crowd stirring up his mount, whose awkward head carriage made him difficult to settle at times. Trailing in last of the 18 runners after being galloped on and sustaining a hind fracture, December Draw would never win another race. 

Given the best part of a year off to recover, December Draw returned for another spring assault in 2012, with a surprising placing in Ocean Park’s Underwood and a Turnbull Stakes third his best efforts. Second-last in Dunaden’s Caulfield Cup, the spring carnival’s one-time ‘it’ horse contested four more Group One races – unplaced in all – before running his last race when seventh in Toydini’s Waterford Crystal Mile of 2013. 



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