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The old adage about a gift horse

Red Dirt Girl - Photo by Trish Dunell
Red Dirt Girl

Photo by Trish Dunell

A wonderful gift horse from a good friend, that's how Bay Barlow described her mare Red Dirt Girl (Align[AUS]- Harmonics) the recent Listed Pegasus Stakes winner.

"We are still buzzing it's such a wonderful feeling, she is the only horse I have bred and the only thoroughbred I own."

Red Dirt Girl is a six-year-old mare by Align(AUS) out of the Bletchencore(AUS) mare Harmonics. She was recording her eighth win when she blitzed home over a 1000 metres in 56.45 flat, getting up on the line to win by half a head.

She is the 11th and last foal of the two win mare Harmonics, who has also left three other winners. Harmonics won twice and was bred and raced by Kristine Stead, who had tremendous success with her half siblings Chillies (Wild Rampage[AUS) and Jacowils (Diamond Express), both smart sprinters, all being out of the Purple Patch mare Patch My Eye (ex Fun In The Sun[AUS]). Jacowils won the Group One Railway Handicap and eight other races, while Chillies won six races including the Listed WW Cockram Stakes at Sandown, and has left a stakes performer in Wind Chill and three other winners.

"I always wanted to breed a racehorse and Kristine had too many mares to send to stud and she lent me Harmonics. I decided to send her to Align, when the foal arrived the day after my mother passed away, I knew she would be a strong willed tough little thing," recalled Barlow.

"I have always been interested in horses, my family were involved and both my grandfather Joe McNaughton and my Dad Peter, used to ride, and train race horses".

"My grandfather was a real character I can remember being told of how he won a race at Ellerslie with his horse Paid and on the way home called into the Rangiriri Hotel to celebrate. He didn't leave the horse in the carpark, but slapped it on the rump and pointed it in the direction of home at Glen Murray seven miles away. There are lots of lovely stories about him".

"I rode as a toddler and if my pony straggled behind, Dad would whistle a dog up to get behind it so I would catch up, needless to say I fell off a few times. Over the years I competed in shows, went hunting and exercised polo ponies when I wasn't at boarding school. We lived 12 miles west of Huntly on a sheep farm with 8000 sheep. I was the chief shepherd when it came to muster time. Dad played polo for Waimai and Glen Murray, and he and I bred and sold a polo pony to the Royal Mews".

"Greg and I moved to Te Kowhai 35 years ago and he is the manager of Vela Farms, the late Phillip Vela always told me I had a really good horse in Red Dirt Girl, so it's nice she has proved him right".

"I had the role of chief instructor for the Hamilton Pony Club when it had 300 members and now I am into team roping and barrel racing my quarter horse, a cool Kaimanawa pony. Our daughter Camille rode and competed as a youngster and now she is the head groom for the New South Wales mounted police, and is in charge of 28 horses in Surrey Hills in Sydney."

Barlow did all the early preparation work on Red Dirt Girl – named after the Emmy Lou Harris song- before she went into Kristine Stead's stable. Stead and her husband Marshall initially raced Red Dirt Girl on lease with Barlow and her husband Greg.

"Red Dirt Girl gave us such a thrill winning her first start by six and half lengths at Paeroa not long after my Dad had died, and it was tinged with sadness that he wasn't there to share the occasion". Opie rode her to victory at Ellerslie on Melbourne Cup day, at her next start and that day we celebrated drinking out of one of the gold cups won by grandad's horse Dinkum Pal.

"She lost a bit of form, and when Marshall and Kristine decided they didn't want to renew the lease we decided to give her a go down south, and leased her to Mike McCann. Greg doesn't have the deep passion that I have for horses, but he has still enjoyed watching her win. Red Dirt Girl has been a great tonic for family and friends, especially for me as I was made redundant recently as well".

"I often helped Kristine at the races, we have been friends for years, and they live not far from us in Te Kohwai. Marshall was our farrier before they married. Ironically when they got married they were gifted Patches (Patch My Eye) as a wedding present, isn't it amazing that she was a gift as well," mused Barlow.

It just goes to show you should never look a gift horse in the mouth!

- Michelle Saba


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