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By Graham Potter | Monday, October 18, 2021

He was earmarked to be Tegan Harrison’s return ride from a long injury-enforced spell on the sidelines but, with her surgeon delaying her comeback date, Harrison had to play a secondary role in Commandeering’s first up run at Ipswich on Friday, October 15 … but that didn’t stop it turning out to be a very special day indeed.

The fact that Commandeering’s form-line showed he had been away from race action for nine-and-a-half months only skimmed the surface of an extraordinary story.

“This horse spelled at my property,” said Harrison, bringing us up to speed with the back story. “One day, while he was spelling, he had a bunja nut cone get caught and he was choking. I was still on crutches and I couldn’t do much. My neighbour Nat helped … we got him to the vets and for a while there it was a life-threatening situation for him.

“Honestly, if it wasn’t for the vet ... they just wouldn’t give up on him and I think we are all a bit like that. The horse doesn’t give up on himself, so he doesn’t deserve to be given up on.

“I broke my leg in March and I was still on crutches, so that was how long ago all of this happened, so it has been a long journey back for this little fellow.

“Even if he never won a race again, the horse has been amazing. He really is just so tough.”

And so, after a real scare and recovery, it was on to that race-day at Ipswich for Commandeering.

The strapper wore a hat and the horse kept turning his head towards her, blocking a clear view of the strapper’s face … but when her face was exposed after the horse had cantered to the start, the infectious smile was instantly recognisable.

Tegan Harrison might not have been getting the leg up onto the horse this time, but she had got as close to the action as she possibly could get. In this case strapping was the next best thing to riding and Harrison’s happiness at being back on the track … win, lose or draw … was there for all to see.

That pleasure was about to exceed all expectations though as Commandeering romped home to a clear-cut victory.

“I could hear them screaming over the last 100m,” said jockey Lani Fancourt, who, apart from giving Commandeering a peach of a ride, also contributed to the perfect picture by producing a huge smile in the saddle over the closing stages, ramping up the enjoyment for all concerned.

Harrison ran and jumped into her friend’s arms, was lifted up and swung around in jubilation. The children with them celebrated their happy experience … and, after Commandeering had come back to scale, a huge hug between Lani Fancourt and Tegan Harrison put an exclamation mark on a very special moment.

Here was no Group 1 glory like the Caulfield Cup … no $15 million race like The Everest … just a BM 65 contest over the 800m dash at a provincial track … but the occasion nevertheless represented the hard core of what the actual lifeblood of the industry is all about as much as any race on the calendar.

This was a moment to savour for trainer Ben Hull, who obviously deserves take every credit for turning Commandeering out the way he did after having to help the horse deal with such a seriously setback and guiding him through his return to racing.

A moment to savour too for Tegan Harrison, for the stable team, for Lani Fancourt and, of course, last but not least, for the vets who answered the call … but, in essence, their commitment is mirrored throughout the industry, up and down the country, by so many stakeholders who do what they do for the love of the horse … a contribution that is invaluable to the industry and, as such, is a contribution that deserves every acknowledgement and credit.

**Tegan Harrison’s Facebook post after the race sent out a message we would all do well to heed. Harrison wrote … ‘This is what it’s all about !!! Even though he was meant to be my comeback ride until my surgeon decided to make me wait until December!!! I got so much joy watching him win with the lovely Lani Fancourt and I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it as much as I would have look at the facial expression!!!! Sometimes we forget what the game’s all about and Commandeering helps remind us that it’s all about having fun and enjoying the ride literally the ups the downs just enjoy every bloody moment !!!!

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Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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