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Keeper Special comes up trumps for Margaret

Margaret Watson in her younger days driving LOL who won ten races and beat Delightful Lady.
To say Margaret Watson, owner and breeder of Ryder Stakes (LR) winner Keeper Special, shuns the limelight would be an understatement. The Silverdale breeder was adamant that she didn't warrant a story and instead wanted the focus to be on her very special filly who goes by the stable name of Shelly.

"I just feed her, she's the one who has done something," says Margaret.

Keeper Special, who as the name suggests is a daughter of Keeper, earned her name after a traumatic entry into the world.

Margaret did not intend to breed Jasben that season after she had delivered her Keeper foal but the difficult birth ensured Jasben was retired from breeding completely.

"She was at home and was having trouble as the foal was round the wrong way," recalls Margaret.

The breech birth foal was finally delivered after Margaret called on her years of experience breeding paints and quarter-horses.

"She was a huge foal and the mare was very tired and quite torn up. When I finally got the foal out I thought she was a colt she was so big, she was laying on the ground looking at me as though I was her mother!" she relates.

Margaret named her then and there claiming she had to be special as she was lucky to be alive.

Jasben is described as a lovely mare by Margaret and came to her after a racing career with Davina Waddell where she won three races and placed 12 times, including a fourth over hurdles.

"I had horse years ago with Davina and she is a mate," says Margaret. "I loved the idea of breeding and so that's how I ended up with her."

By Sun and Shine, out of the Rangong mare Roseanne, Jasben is a half-sister to the Grand National Hurdles winner Raggamuffin Rose.

If all goes according to plan with Keeper Special in the new season then she will be looking to return to the venue of that achievement but with much loftier ambitions.
"We are hoping to aim for the 1000 Guineas in November," says Margaret.
That dream of Group One glory is something Margaret shares with probably everyone who has ever bred a horse and is the spur that keeps her going during wet winters when she has to trudge through unpleasant conditions to feed her horses.
She is reluctant to talk about the number of mares she has, instead saying that while she does have some mares which would be deemed commercial, others aren't. These ones she tends to breed with her paint stallion.

Margaret did acknowledge other breeders like her at the presentation for the Ryder Stakes.

"I just said that it was for all the small breeders the non-commercial people and that we should all keep dreaming because it can happen," she says. "I love racing, I just adore it," she adds. "My feet haven't touched the ground since the weekend!"
Margaret is, unsurprisingly optimistic about what might eventuate during Keeper Special's three year old season.

"The Keepers are better three year olds, though they've done all right as two year olds too," she says.

"She's still got a lot of growing to do, she's going to be a big, strong girl."
With a Group One win her ultimate aim Margaret also harbours a desire to win Australasia's most coveted race, the Melbourne Cup.

"Well you have to aim high!" she states.

"You have to have faith in yourself and your horses. I've had people saying to me, 'what are you breeding that for' over the years but you just have to believe in what you are doing," she adds.

Like many breeders the EI outbreak in Australia has impacted on her breeding stock as she ended up with mares stranded across the Tasman.

"I had the great Aussie dream but it all went pear-shaped," she says.

Despite that Margaret remains determinedly upbeat – it is incredible what a black type winner can do for one's spirits in the depth of winter!

"Fairytales do happen. You don't need millions of dollars, you can start from nothing. And you get to have fun along the way!"

"Anyway, what else would you be doing, you've got to have some vices. Though horses and breeding are not really a vice, they are more like an addiction!"

- Mary McCarty


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