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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
Danny Beasley spoke to Asian Racing Report about the extraordinary will to win possessed by the Guy Walter-trained Court’s In Session, a gelding still going strong on his owner’s farm aged 23.
Jockey Danny Beasley had only ridden Court’s In Session in one race prior to the Apollo Stakes of 2005. But that one dominant performance in the 1600 metre G3 Hawkesbury Cup – won with a crushing frontrunning display, as all of the gelding’s 14 career victories were – was enough for Beasley to know exactly the kind of stuff Court’s In Session was made of.
Booked for his great champion Grand Armee in the Apollo, Beasley had resolved to keep his mount as far away from Court’s In Session as possible, lest the pair meet eyeball-to-eyeball when the race was there to be won.
“If a horse came up beside Court’s In Session, he just refused to let them pass: the more he could feel them coming at him, the more he would fight,” Beasley told Asian Racing Report.
“When I rode against him on Grand Armee, I always made sure that I came right away from him when I made my run – three or four horses deep instead of coming up beside him as you normally would – because I knew Court’s In Session so well and knew that he fights too much.”
Beasley’s tactical acumen saw Grand Armee take the spoils – narrowly – on two of the three occasions the gallopers met, with Chris Munce riding Grand Armee when third behind Court’s In Session in the Expressway Stakes of 2005.
Danny Beasley and the great Grand Armee. (Photo by Jon Buckle)
Beasley would ultimately forge his own stellar association with Court’s In Session, piloting the Guy Walter-trained toughnut to four wins from seven starts, including a Warwick Stakes and the 2006 Cameron Handicap, where Court’s In Session hefted 60.5 kilograms to break a 105-year weight-carrying record.
“He was hard going and pretty aggressive, a very strong-willed horse,” Beasley remembered.
“He’d come out, he’d make his own luck, he’d go out and run hard and he’d just keep fighting right to the line, he’d break their hearts really, that was his strength.
“He did some amazing things, he carried a record weight to win the Cameron. I remember the race clearly, he got attacked from the jump and when he used to get taken on he’d go, he wouldn’t rate himself well, you’d just have to be a bit of a passenger and go with him and bring him back when he’d allow you to.
“But I remember that day they just attacked him right from the start, and the Hawkes-trained runner Malcolm was just sitting back off the pace letting it all unfold. We were left a sitting shot but Court’s In Session being the type of horse he was, he just would not let Malcolm get by him.”
Class mare Shania Dane experienced some of what Malcolm had copped at Newcastle when Court’s In Session defended his Expressway title in 2006, becoming the only horse in history to win the race twice.
“Shania Dane got to him and she’d had the run, she looked the winner, and once again she just couldn’t get past him,” said Beasley.
“If they came at him and couldn’t get past him quickly, that was it, that was the only chance he would give them.”
Court’s In Session was bred and raced by Peter Cruickshank and remains a treasured presence on his owner’s farm at Wollombi, in the Lower Hunter Valley.
“He’s treated like a king as you would imagine,” Cruickshank told Asian Racing Report.
“He’s 23 years old, he’s a beautiful horse and he looks as magnificent as ever.”
Court's In Session enjoying his retirement at Wollombi. (Photo supplied)
Court's In Session is still turning heads aged 23. (Photo supplied)
Court’s In Session was the sixth foal of the first horse Cruickshank ever bought, a Seventh Hussar mare called Markatie Court and named after Cruickshank’s three children Mark, Katie and Courtney.
“I paid $12,000 for his mother as a yearling. She was by the sire of Denise’s Joy, so she had that great bloodline on the broodmare side, one of the best in the stud book.”
For Cruickshank, who has been breeding horses for close to forty years including the talented Hong Kong sprinter Sunny Power, none have meant more than the horse who delivered him a Group 1 victory in the George Ryder, and who he affectionately calls “the bulldog”.
“I’ll put it to you this way: he paid off my mortgage, and he took me and my family on a magic carpet ride,” he said.
“He was such a crowd favourite, everyone loved his racing style, getting six or so lengths in front and hanging on to win. When he was racing, you’d go into the pub at places like Walcha and everyone would just get up and cheer for him. They loved him.”
Beasley recalled the day Court’s In Session’s racing career suddenly came to an end at start 31, breaking down badly in the G1 George Main Stakes. But such was the horse’s toughness that even a fractured sesamoid bone couldn’t immediately curb his racing instincts.
“It was at about the 800, he was going really nicely, he’d never had a day of unsoundness in his life so it was very surprising,” he said.
“I remember he was going along nice and smooth and I just felt him falter, I pulled him up straight away but I think it took me a good couple of furlongs to get him to stop, that’s how strong he was, even still with a fractured sesamoid.
“I remember Guy Walter was shattered as we all were, for such a great horse to finish his career like that. But thankfully they were able to save him.”
Cruickshank remembered Warwick Farm-based Walter, who passed away in 2014 after suffering a heart attack, as a friend foremost, as well as a truly outstanding person and horseman.
“You cannot find words to describe what a magnificent human being Guy Walter was,” he said.
“As a person he was the epitome of who you wanted to train your horse.”
Several years after Court’s In Session’s retirement, Cruickshank arranged for what became a highly emotional, surprise reunion between trainer and horse.
“My daughter got married in the old heritage listed stables at Newmarket,” he said.
“Guy and his wife Wendy came, and I got a mate of mine to bring Court’s In Session down and nobody knew about it. I had him in a little box with his George Ryder rug on near the drinks area at the reception, and when Guy saw him he broke down in tears. That was how much he loved him.”
The late Guy Walter with jockey Michael Rodd after Appearance's Myer Classic win at Flemington. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri)
Beasley too has only the highest of praise for Walter.
“It was a very sad day for racing when we lost Guy,” he said.
“He was an amazing trainer, an amazing reader of his horse and a great planner; he could even be the best trainer I’ve ever ridden for.
“I’ve ridden for some great trainers but Guy Walter is without doubt in the top three that I’ve had anything to do with. He managed the fitness of his horses so well, he knew exactly when they would hit their peak to the point that it was freakish, predicting it three or four months in advance.
“We probably didn’t get to see the best of what he was going to do, he had a great career but I think with his foresight and ability to plan, there’s no limits to what he would have achieved in those next ten years or twenty years.”
Looking back on Court’s In Session’s glorious career, the 2006 Warwick Stakes stands out as Cruickshank’s favourite moment.
“He was first-up and he beat a who’s who of Australian racing at the time, and he beat them on their merits,” he said.
“Racing To Win, Desert War, Eremein, Headturner – every favourite for that spring’s Melbourne features was there – and he was just too good for them. He was a super horse.”
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