People's Champ returns to track
THE People’s Champ is back. Takeover Target is set to return to the racetrack tomorrow at the Lismore Turf Club.
The eight-time Group One winner will be saddled, paraded and galloped just like on race day, but this time punters wont be able to back him – his will be an exhibition gallop.
Owner-trainer Joe Janiak won’t have a runner at Lismore tomorrow but he and his best mate will make the trip north from their Coffs Harbour base in honour of the fans.
“The old boy has given me so much joy over the years,” Janiak said.
“And punters love him so the least I can do is try to share some of the joy with crowds.”
A winner of more than $6 million in prizemoney, the now 10-year-old made a similar appearance at the Ballina Jockey Club in January where he looked in fine fettle as he came hauling down the straight with his long, loping stride.
And while Janiak admits his superstar is ‘jumping out of his skin’ there are no plans for a serious return to the track.
“He is sound as a bell, the horse,” Janiak said.
“But he has done his job on the track and is enjoying retirement.”
The former taxi driver keeps his fairytale horse fit with slow work on the track and the beach and will continue to parade him at country race meetings.
And when he gets to the track on race day it’s like he never left.
“He thrives on it,” Janiak said.
“He knows what it is all about; he takes in the crowd and soaks up the atmosphere – he just loves it.”
The crowd will too.
So are there any budding gallopers looking to step up to the mark in the now-famous red and black checks, white sleeves and cap?
“We have a couple of half-handy horses in work at the moment,” Janiak said.
“But nothing like him. If I get one near half as good as him I will be a very lucky man.”