When ex-pat Kiwi Dylan Stratford landed at the Cranbourne Training Centre in October 2019 one of the first people to reach out and offer the young trainer his support was local owner Kevin Lee. That faith was repaid at Warragul on Monday afternoon when three-year-old pacer Written Courage convincingly won the Liberty Financial Maiden Pace at just his second lifetime start.
Bred by Kevin and his wife Annette, Written Courage showed Stratford glimpses of what he might deliver long term during his two-year-old campaign. But the young trainer was convinced that the colt would only develop into a tractable racehorse once he overcame the physical and mental immaturity that characterised his freshman season.
The Sportswriter colt was first up at Warragul on the back of two recent trials and Stratford clearly had his charge fit and well and ready to perform for his Warragul assignment. Settling into the coveted one-out-one-back position shortly after the start, Written Courage was only set alight by driver Zac Phillips at the 400-metre mark and quickly put his rivals to the sword.
On the line Written Courage had seven metres to spare over a gallant Ionthebullion who raced without cover with the race favourite Scruffy Moto compounding into third placing after leading throughout.
“Kevin called me not long after I moved into the Centre and offered me Written Courage’s sister Tara Leann who was an unraced two-year-old at the time,” Stratford explained after Monday’s win. “She ran a couple of placings for me but wasn’t quite good enough to go with the better horses. Kevin moved her on and she is now racing in the Albury area. Written Courage replaced her in the stable and always had the makings of a nice horse. But he was just such a big baby that he was never really going to make a two-year-old.”
“I’m really pleased to get this win for Kevin and Annette. They have had to wait a while to get a winner but I think this horse might be able to go on and do a good job for them,”.
Kevin recently called time on his working life as a builder and he and Annette are currently in the midst of a tree-change having sold their family home in Berwick and purchased an 80-acre property in the Heathcote district.
By David Scott
Photo: Claire Weston Photography