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Trainer recalls the exploits of Cusack

May 9, 2011

by Neil Clarkson

Racehorse trainer Tarsha Stokes recalls the day she sat down at her kitchen table with husband Michael to weigh up whether they should accept an offer from the United States for Cusack.

Cusack wins the Progressive 2000m at Riccarton on April 2, 2005, with Kylie Williams up. © Jeni Bassett/Equine Attitude
"He was one of our favourites," she says of the thoroughbred.

Cusack, from the well-respected stallion Simon Snorkel, had won three in a row and was showing real ability, particularly as a stayer.

The connections in the US really wanted him, she recalled, but the Stokes were torn.

"In those days, we had just started out. It was a big decision for us; he was our boy.

"We sat down and wrote down on a piece of paper the good points and the bad points."

In the end, they made the decision to sell their first horse.

"There was a good chance we could not have won that sort of money. He would had to have won a Group 1 race."

Selling, she said, was a big decision.

Cusack, now 11, was bred on the Mt Grey Downs property of Chris Rowe, in North Canterbury, where Simon Snorkel stands at stud.

"We bred him and trained him. He was one of our favourites; a very easy horse to ride," Tarsha recalls.

"He was a little boistrous on the ground ... he just wanted to get on with things. He loved his work. He was always a lovely horse."

Cusack, whose stable name was Shaun, was broken in by Shayne Carrick and went to the Stokes' property at Waikuku, where he was trained on the track, as well as on the nearby sandy beach.

She recalls he was quite a small thoroughbred when he came into work, but developed into a bigger, stronger racehorse.

He was a nice mover and jockey Kylie Williams had loved him, she says.

She remembers on one occasion when Cusack lost a rear shoe at the starting gates of a 2000-metre race. The decision was made to whip off the other rear shoe and race him with only his two front plates.

Michael Stokes with Cusack before his sale.
Cusack won, and in a very smart time.

He preferred to race back in the field and then make his move, although she recalls he did win one trial on the pace.

She said it appeared his racing connections in the US tried to sprint him, when his real ability, in her view, lay as a stayer.

He won one race, got two seconds and a third from a handful of starts in the US, before disappearing from view.

Tarsha said it was fantastic that Cusack's plight at an auction house in Washington had been discovered on the internet by a sharp-eye Kiwi living in Florida, and the effort that then unfolded to save him.

The Stokes made a generous contribution to the Cusack fund.



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