By MIKE HILL
MANY trainers can tell you stories about how their \’certainties\’ got beaten, but very few can match Michael Hickmott\’s tragic tale.
His champion sprinter Gozo Farmer was the hot favourite for the 2005 Group 3 Darwin Cup (537m) after clocking the fastest heat time and drawing box one in the final.
Hickmott had hired a caravan and was camping at the Winnellie Park grounds at the time.
\”It was a hot day and I had locked the dog in the caravan to keep him cool leading up to the $25,000 feature final,\” he said.
\”I\’d gone to Darwin with two \’mates\’. We were part-owners in the dog.
\”I told them the dog was in the van and to stay out. However, they decided to go in and get some beer and somehow left the fridge door open.\”
Gozo Farmer, feeling a bit peckish, poked his nose in the fridge and began to snack.
\”I think he ate a pound of butter and a kilo of sausages,\” lamented Hickmott, who with some punting mates had invested $5000 on Gozo Farmer to win his heat and the final.
\”We got five or six-to-one. I was shattered.
\”A few weeks earlier we had done really well when we backed \’Gozo\’ to win his heat and final of the Dapto Cup.
\”We got odds of 12-1 and he saluted in the Group 3 feature after winning his heat.\”
But things turned sour in Darwin after the dog\’s pre-final feast.
\”I had to walk him around for about an hour and he still was a bit over-weight.\”
At the time, Gozo Farmer was going for a 13th successive win.
However, victory didn\’t go the black sprinter\’s way and he finished second behind the Michael Giniotis-trained Mr Monk, beaten a length.
\”Gozo Farmer was miles in front early and still led at the 500m boxes, with some trainers already congratulating me.
\”They didn\’t know about the sausage caper and I said \’he\’s not home yet\’.
\”He was run down in the straight. I was devastated.
\”I didn\’t want anyone to know about the pre-race incident, but the other two blokes got on the drink after the race and told everyone about the dog\’s sausage snack.
\”It was the front page news in Darwin the following day.\”
Hickmott said he was filthy and immediately split from the partnership, ending his association with \’Gozo\’.
Up to his Darwin Cup second, Gozo Farmer had the wonderful record of 39 wins and 11 minor placings from just 53 starts, including victories at Wentworth Park, Albion Park, Townsville, Mackay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Cairns, Ipswich and Lismore.
Bred by Sam Apap, the World Title-Loving Miss sprinter was trained early in his career by Roger Green in Brisbane.