Final lap for 'Mozzie'
EVERYONE wanted the fairytale for Darron Coleman – the scribes, his family, his friends, the crowd, even rival trainers, jockeys and punters (those who backed other horses were simply hedging their bets).
After much confusion Coleman’s ultimate day at the track was finally here – though it looked like it may never happen.
Ballina was twice forced to postpone the meeting before shifting to Lismore, which in turn had to palm it off to Casino with the track not in racing order.
And so it was at Casino where the man they call “Mozzie” would return to scale for the final time – fittingly, it was the track where it all began. The seven-race program saw the champion hoop booked to ride in each race bar the last.
And when they crossed the line in the sixth race Coleman hadn’t ridden a winner all day – it seemed the fairytale wasn’t happening.
Then, with Jason Watkins forced to withdraw from his mount in the last, Coleman scored a pick-up ride on the Tom Pratt-trained Top Agenda. The fairytale was back on.
Coleman went around to the barriers unfazed by everything that was running through the minds of the few hundred who turned up hoping to witness a happy ending.
For him it was just another ride among the thousands he has had in a 20-year career. As they jumped out of the gates in the last race, Top Agenda – a $10 chance - was hunted forward into a position of power; Coleman was going to give the four-year-old every chance.
The old pro found the fence then cuddled his mount through the mid-section of the race – stayed well out of trouble. As they turned for the judge Coleman peeled of the fence and set sail for home. With 200 to go he looked a good thing.
Then came the wobbles.
Top Agenda started to falter in the shadows of the post but with the favourites all out the back he looked safe. Then came the villain.
A $70 shot – the roughest of the day – ridden by Glenn Lynch lobs right on the line to slay the hero and ruin the fairytale.
After 20 years, more than 600 winners, and 1200m in this particular race, a couple of inches was all that separated Coleman from his happy ending. Lynch came off the track to chorus of boos but correctly retorted: “What? I’ve gotta eat too.”
Coleman didn’t seem overly fussed to have missed out by a short half-head. Like a good galloper he just takes everything in his stride. “I thought I had it for a minute there,” he said after the race. And so did most of the field. “I could hear them (rival jockeys) cheering me from behind.”
It was a bittersweet end to the career of Coleman. Perhaps Casino trainer, Pratt, put it best.
“A win there would have been great for Mozzie,” he said. “Would have been better for us. But hey, that’s racing.”
It won’t sink in for a while that Coleman has pulled down the curtain on a glittering career which produced two apprentice premierships, five or six jockeys’ premierships, and hundreds of winners in combination with his mate Danny Bowen.
And even when it does he has his daughter Gabrielle to sit back and watch and reminisce – because for as long as she is going around it will be like Mozzie is still there too.