Emotional highlight for Hale

Seventh Up (Grant Cooksley) bursting through to beat Hiflyer (outside), Let Me Roar (chestnut) and Scapolo (rails) in today's Gr.2 Manco Easter Stakes.

Seventh Up (Grant Cooksley) bursting through to beat Hiflyer (outside), Let Me Roar (chestnut) and Scapolo (rails) in today’s Gr.2 Manco Easter Stakes.

Shelley Hale has been through her hard times, but today was a day to rejoice for the popular Cambridge horsewoman.

Hale celebrated her biggest highlight as an owner, breeder and trainer when Seventh Up stormed home from near last to an impressive win in the Gr.2 $200,000 Manco Easter Stakes at Ellerslie in the cool hands of Grant Cooksley.

Hale was brought to tears by the win, not surprisingly considering the battle she has had with her health, particularly in late 2014 when she underwent a series of operations.

She was sidelined for a time and during that period friends and family rallied to help out.

While she was recuperating in hospital after her second operation, her local racing fraternity, headed by long-time Cambridge Jockey Club member Peggy Eriksen and trainer Sheryl McGlade, gathered financial support to help her out.

Eriksen and McGlade organised a raffle at the Cambridge trials with proceeds going towards helping Hale. That fundraiser and the support shown to her and her son, Matthew, during such a difficult time and since then has overwhelmed Hale.

That help is something which she has never forgotten and was quick to reflect on after Seventh Up’s major win.

“I’m thrilled to bits and quite overcome,” said Hale. “Thank you very much to everyone who has helped me through thick and thin. There have been so many people.”

Hale also spared a thought for her other owners and co-breeders in Seventh Up, the Noel and Alison Johnstone Family Trust and Robin Stent.

“Dear Noel Johnstone, he was the biggest fan of the horse, but we lost him a few years ago,” she said. “Robin hasn’t had the best of health – he’s lost a leg.

“They’ve stuck with me and it’s a real thrill to get this race for them.”

Hale was also quick to pay tribute to Regelle, the dam of Seventh Up, whose record now stands at seven wins and almost $240,000 in prizemoney. “She’s just been a gem of a mare,” she said.

Regelle won four races and has developed into a wonderful broodmare. Seven of her eight foals to race have been winners and they include Seventh Up’s brothers Thumbs Up (a Group Two winner and Group One placegetter in Hong Kong), Sum Up (six wins and a multiple Group performer and Two Up, Close Up and Next Up.

Hale was also particularly pleased to see Seventh Up realise his potential in such a strong line-up.

“He’s a neat horse and it’s lovely to get a good race,” she said. “I’m never one to get cocky, but I knew he was going very well.

“I wish it was still a Group One because I really think he’s a Group One horse.”

Hale had hoped to be contesting some of the feature 1600-metre events with Seventh Up over the summer period, but those plans were shelved after he finished fourth on a rock-hard track in Riccarton’s Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile.

“We had hoped to get to races like the Rich Hill and Thorndon Mile, but he jarred up so badly at Christchurch that we’ve been behind the eight-ball all summer. We were chasing our tail the whole way and it was a little bit doubtful we would even get here.”

Hale has trained each of Regelle’s foals in New Zealand and has established a wonderful strike rate with her small team. She currently has just a few horses in work and two of them contested today’s Manco Easter Stakes.

Go Nicholas finished a creditable eighth, just under three and a half lengths from his winning stablemate, and showed he, too, will develop into a good winner for Hale.