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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
Trainer Noel Mayfield-Smith reflects on the brilliant but brief career of 2003 Caulfield Guineas winner In Top Swing.
The inaugural champion of the celebrated, now ‘stallion-making’ Golden Rose in 2003. An emphatic winner of the G1 Caulfield Guineas two starts later, who left outstanding three-year-olds the calibre of Exceed And Excel and Elvstroem to flounder in his wake.
But for all his obvious abilities, In Top Swing was a galloper firmly in the ‘underrated’ class. Underrated by punters and bookmakers alike whilst he raced, who conspired to send him off at double figures in six of his 12 starts. And underrated by pundits since, with the chestnut son of Beautiful Crown largely overshadowed by the Redoute’s Choices, Lonhros and Weekend Husslers of the Guineas honour roll.
For trainer Noel Mayfield-Smith – then Hawkesbury-based, now at Coffs Harbour – it’s a familiar scenario, but one that he has come to embrace, if not use to his advantage.
“Absolutely he was underrated,” he told Asian Racing Report.
“If you have a look at some of my other really good horses over the years, like Landsighting and Famous Seamus, they probably fall into the same category and it’s because you’re deemed ‘unfashionable’ and essentially not up to the standard to be able to train those types of winners, so people don’t want to know about it.
“But I can tell you this,” Mayfield-Smith continued with an ominous shift in tone.
“At Breakfast with the Stars on the Tuesday before the Caulfield Guineas, he ran the quickest last furlong on the course proper of the entire session. Nobody seemed to take much notice but we were very confident as a result. And we did have something on him at 20/1 in the Guineas, and rest assured it was no fluke.”
In Top Swing wins the Caulfield Guineas, with Exceed and Excel back in sixth. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri)
Mayfield-Smith’s pre-race confidence was only enhanced by his conversations with two Victorian-based jockeys: Patrick Payne, who rode In Top Swing when second behind Elvstroem in the Guineas Prelude, and Noel Callow, who was booked ‘sight unseen’ for the Group 1 ride in light of Payne’s prior commitment to ride Bevan Laming’s colt Face Value.
“Patrick Payne rode him for me in the Prelude and he said, ‘This horse is spot on, whatever you’re doing with him do not change it, he’ll be hard to beat’. Patrick is an excellent horseman and I’ve always had great respect for his opinion, so that was a great pointer.”
With the In Top Swing seat available, Mayfield-Smith and owner Bill Fisher were happy to book Callow after the jockey’s manager rang up for the ride.
“Noel was going really well at the time, he could win on anything,” Mayfield-Smith said. “Funny thing was, when he came out to get on the horse, I’d never even seen him (Callow) before, and he’s got these big brown eyes that are just bursting out of his head.
“I said to Bill after he left to get on, ‘He’s our man!’. He was such a character and just bringing such energy, buzzing, you just love those types.”
Mayfield-Smith’s confidence was only tempered by what he had observed at the same track three weeks prior, when conceding 3.5kg to the quality Tony Vasil-trained colt Elvstroem in the Prelude (then a set weights plus penalties race).
Also run that day was the G1 Dubai Racing Club Cup, a seven-furlong race that Tim Martin’s crack colt Exceed And Excel had made all the running in, smashing the Caulfield track record in the process.
“I always thought that back at level weights we’d probably have the better of Elvstroem in the Guineas. But the horse I really feared that day was Exceed And Excel,” recalled Mayfield-Smith.
“He was just a magnificent type, he looked amazing. I’d seen what he’d done to the older horses on that day so that was shaping as the far superior form.”
Another jockey familiar with In Top Swing’s quality was Hugh Bowman, who had recorded an unlikely come-from-behind victory aboard the chestnut in the Golden Rose.
#TBT First time the race was run as the 'Golden Rose' was in 2003, won by Noel Mayfield-Smith trained In Top Swing pic.twitter.com/YnY7dvXWlY
— Australian Turf Club (@aus_turf_club) September 8, 2016
Bowman however elected to pair with Exceed And Excel in the Guineas, a decision that the champion jockey would come to regret about halfway up the Caulfield straight.
“I spoke to Hugh after the Guineas, he said, ‘I kicked on the turn and thought I was well clear, but then I could hear something coming from behind me, and I took a glance and all I could see was that white bridle with the noseband’ and he just said he knew that he was gone, because he knew that it would be In Top Swing and was all too aware how my bloke could finish off”.
Stalking the speed, Callow slipped In Top Swing his requisite leather at the top of the running and the horse did the rest, building into that same rhythmic speed that he had shown in the Golden Rose to kick again and keep Face Value and the soothsayer Payne at bay, with a big space back to subsequent Victoria Derby runner-up Kempinsky in third. It would be the then 25-year-old Callow’s maiden Group 1 victory.
Both the Caulfield Guineas and Golden Rose wins came at surprise starting prices of $19. “Yeah, we did have a bet then too,” comes Mayfield-Smith’s tacit acknowledgement of further stable confidence earlier that spring at Rosehill.
That In Top Swing would have just one further career start following his Guineas triumph was testament to the ‘horse first’ approach of his owner.
A first Group 1 for 'King' Callow aboard In Top Swing. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri)
“Bill was the sort of guy, he had a lot of horses in work and he’d raced a hell of a lot of horses, but no matter the commercial value or what they could do for him he never ever put them in any sort of danger. He was an amazing owner.”
In Top Swing originally arrived at Mayfield-Smith’s stables as part of an intake of 20 or so tried and untried horses for Fisher, but from the outset it was clear that though extremely talented, the chestnut might be on ‘borrowed time’, diagnosed with a degenerative disease in a fetlock joint.
It was however a different injury that ultimately ended the gelding’s career, sustained when slipping on some newly-laid wood chip while galloping at Hawkesbury in the summer of 2004.
“They decided to chip the track themselves instead of getting the normal commercial people to do it, the track never ever settled properly and he slipped one morning and hit his sesamoid and put a small crack in it, and that was it. After that Bill was very reluctant to risk him.”
Despite returning to win a Rosehill trial approximately a year later, an x-ray at the owner’s request revealed arthritic change in the bone, and the Group 1-winner was retired.
In Top Swing may never have jumped favourite in a race but the $1.5 million earner remains a firm favourite with Mayfield-Smith and wife Emma, and is still kept close by in a roomy 10-acre paddock at Coffs Harbour with fellow retired stable star Famous Seamus, million-dollar earner and winner of the G1 BTC Cup.
“He’s just a lovely horse, quiet, really gentle, always looking for someone to pat him, just not a malicious bone in his body.
“He’s 22 years old, larger than life and happy as Larry,” said Mayfield-Smith.
So where does In Top Swing rank in comparison to Mayfield-Smith’s other Group 1 winners?
Chris Munce salutes on Landsighting in 2000. (Photo by: Darren England/ALLSPORT via Getty Images)
“I’m really reluctant to compare my better horses to each other, because each one has done something so special for me and has done their best.
“But he was very good. You don’t win a Caulfield Guineas if you’re hopeless. He was up there near the speed all the way, he toughed it out and he kicked away from some class animals. He was a very, very good horse.”
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