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The man behind the horse

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Adam Crettenden with his new book Manikato: The Man. Photo - Meg Kennedy

By Meg Kennedy

Local race caller and author Adam Crettenden has again delved into Australia’s rich horse racing history.

His new book, Manikato: ‘The Man’, follows the namesake of the Manikato Stakes.

The champion racehorse raced from the late 1970s to early ‘80s, and still holds the record for five consecutive wins in a major Australian sprint.

Mr Crettenden’s signed photograph of Manikato.

After writing a biography on the career of well-known racehorse Subzero, Mr Crettenden had no intention of writing another book.

But a framed photo in his Ballan home of the horse, signed by jockey Gary Willetts, sparked Mr Crettenden into researching Manikato’s life.

“I quietly started to do a bit of research, mainly on the racing background, and once I satisfied myself…that he had a great record, then I started looking into the more personal side of it; the trainers, the people that were around and the jockeys that rode him,” explained Mr Crettenden.

“Because if I wanted to read a racing book, I didn’t want a book to be that went ‘Start 1, he went really fast, and he won again’. Even for a racing purist it would get monotonous and boring, so you need these little stories to come together in-between.”

He describes the ‘golden moment’ of wanting to share the story was when discovering the quirks between well-known trainers Bob and Bon Hoysted, two brothers with two very different approaches to training.

“They didn’t really get along – they trained horses very differently. Bon had this systematic approach, very regimented…Bob was very different, had a backyard stable with these handpicked horses, they all had their individual routine and was very hands-on,” said Mr Crettenden.

“But Bob was always superstitious and paranoid as well, so there were all these wonderful things that made writing the book for me so much easier, because I can tell these funny stories about how weird Bob was, and it helped break up the segments of races.”

One amusing anecdote Mr Crettenden discovered was when Bob was returning to Melbourne from a Sydney race meet and got a flat tyre, with Manikato and another racehorse in the back.

“At the time they were the two best horses in Australia, and they are stranded on the side of the road between Benalla and Euroa in the middle of the night with trucks whizzing by,” said Mr Crettenden.

“Bob – no handyman – had his foreman with him, he was handing these two horses and Bob said ‘Steve, whatever you do, don’t let them go!’,” he said.

Just over 12-months ago Mr Crettenden shared his Melbourne Cup predictions with the Moorabool News; this year, he again focused on the roster of international horses.

“It’s been the year of the Japanese so far in the spring…but the Aussies have two good chances this year,” he said.

“This year there’s two Australian horses that both have good chances – Vow and Declare and Surprise Baby,” he said.

Beremboke-based Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock is part owner of Irish import Southern France, also set to compete in the Cup.

Mr Crettenden explained the Cup has become “quite a random race” in modern times, where long ago punters were able to follow a horse’s career to the ‘race that stops a nation’.

“In the old colonial days, people would pick out a horse from when they ran in the Victoria Derby 12-months ago and they follow them all through the next year,” he said.

Manikato: ‘The Man’ by Adam Crettenden is now available to purchase for $34.99 through Melbourne Books at www.melbournebooks.com.au/products/manikato