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By Graham Potter | Monday, January 13, 2020

They were turning down large, large offers for Alligator Blood before his exceptional win in extraordinary circumstances in the Magic Millions Three-Year-Old Guineas at the Gold Coast on Saturday … and you can be sure that phone-line will be ringing hot again this week.

With over $3 million already banked in earnings from just nine starts Alligator Blood is set for superstar status having already had a taste of celebrity life with his late progress to the track, courtesy of a crash and seriously backed up traffic on the M1, being monitored by thousands of racing enthusiasts.

Alligator Blood, the hot favourite deemed unbeatable by many, was in real danger of missing the race and it was only the fact that stewards took the decision to put the race-times back one race which kept Alligator Blood’s hope of racing alive.

With any normality of routine now firmly out of the window, Alligator Blood had to be vetted on arrival at the track. That done, with the vet giving the green light to go, two other delays at the start threatened to further complicate matters.

First Scout had to be reshod and then Leviathan broke through the barriers while the field was still loading and galloped away. For Leviathan, there would be no second chance. He was declared a late scratching.

While the farrier work was taking place on Scout, jockey Ryan Maloney had moved Alligator Blood some distance away from the main throng of waiting runners. When Leviathan went on his unscheduled solo run, Moloney dismounted from Alligator Blood. Both of Maloney’s actions were designed to limit any further stress levels that his mount might be subjected to … and, of course, whatever pressure he was feeling himself.

The overriding question as the field finally took its place in the starting barriers was just how much had all of these unforeseen and unwanted events taken out of Alligator Blood. Some ‘experts’ climbed off him but Alligator Blood’s large (and ever growing) fan base stuck firm with his short odds hardly wavering at all.

By far the majority still expected Alligator Blood to just be too good for the opposition.


Alligator Blood jumped smartly. He settled in fourth early and then went back to sixth racing comfortably within himself some four to five lengths off the leader.

In the sweep to the home turn Maloney began to ease Alligator Blood out away from the rail, making up ground in a measured fashion, so that Alligator Blood was perfectly positioned to strike when the field straightened for home … fifth, four wide, but now just a couple of lengths back and, most importantly, in clear running.

Of those ahead of Alligator Blood at that stage, Diamond Thunder, Howwonderfullifeis and Oh Five Glory would not go on with it. Eleven Eleven was the exception.

Eleven Eleven, a $31 chance, kicked hard at the 300m and Alligator Blood also extended under the gentle urgings of Maloney, who was still content to drive Alligator with mere flicks of the wrists, and these two runners joined issue in the final chase to the line.

To Eleven Eleven’s absolute credit, the Greg Hickman trained runner matched strides and fought the favourite with all he had between the 300m and the 180m but Alligator Blood was always going the easier of the two with Maloney hardly exerting himself.

That superiority kicked in with meaning over the closing stages as Alligator Blood swept past the game Eleven Eleven (who would stay on for second placing) and moved away to a victory that was every bit as decisive as the official two length margin suggests.

In total, only five horses finished within five lengths of Alligator Blood, a fact which further underlined Alligator Blood’s stranglehold on the contest.

The most vigorous Maloney was in the saddle was when he stood up and waved his whip in a victory salute.

The fact that came before the finish did cost Maloney $500 but, then again, that was small change after his winning ride in a $2 million race!


All that could go wrong before hand had been cancelled out, happily, by everything going right in the race itself.

Alligator Blood was simply brilliant. Ryan Maloney’s ride was majestic and the other absolute star of the show was trainer David Vandyke and his training team.

As Damian Browne said pre-race in his personal blog on HRO, ‘All credit to trainer David Vandyke for what he has done with Alligator Blood. There probably wouldn’t be a trainer … or there hasn’t been a trainer I have come across … who is as hands-on as David is. He knows his horses inside out. Obviously, he is a very good horseman and his results speak for themselves. With the time he puts into them he deserves every success he gets.’

In fact, it would not be out of place to suggest that there is very much an element of a ‘horse whisperer’ in Vandyke’s makeup, an innate sense of being at one with the horse, placing its well-being first while getting to know exactly how to make the horse happy to get it to a state of mind where it can perform to its full potential.

Vandyke has certainly travelled that route with Alligator Blood and the trainer’s dedication and determination to deliver his philosophy has had a progressive calming influence on the once overly headstrong Alligator Blood.

It was a fine balancing act … getting Alligator Blood’s mind to the right place in a manner which would not impact negatively on the horse’s ability or his desire to compete … and Vandyke, and his stable foreman Emma, has carried that strategy off to perfection.

All of that hard work certainly produced a day to remember for the owners of Alligator Blood.

For Vandyke, the first post-race emotion was one of relief. Then, he could only marvel at what a good horse can achieve even when unforeseen complications tried to get in the way of victory but, hopefully now, forty-eight hours later, Vandyke can take just that half step back for a moment and enjoy the satisfaction of a major achievement.

Again, as Damian Browne said, ‘With the time he (Vandyke) puts into them he deserves every success he gets.’

HRO loudly echoes that sentiment!

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Photos: HRO (Darren Winningham)
Photos: HRO (Darren Winningham)
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