Written by Anthony Manton
While all the attention on Saturday was focused on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, a little known Queanbeyan trainer unveiled a serious contender for next year’s Country Championships when winning the first race at Goulburn.
As a regular race caller for the last few years at all the tracks in that region and a keen form student, Todd Blowes was a name even I was unfamiliar with. But after calling his horse Noble Boy (Bon Hoffa) win the opening race I tracked Todd down on course to introduce myself and to find out more about the horse and trainer.
Although relatively unknown as a trainer Todd Blowes, 37, was always destined to work with horses. He was raised on a farm just outside of Crookwell in a family that has always been involved in racing. For Blowes, a keen polo player, training was always the ambition.
After a stint in Queensland where he met his wife, Blowes started breaking and pre-training ten years ago on fifty acres near Braidwood. He moved to Queanbeyan to obtain a trainers license in November last year while still doing some pre-training work for leading local trainer Joe Cleary.
A late starter
Blowes only had eight starters in twelve months, and no winner, before Noble Boy came along. A horse that was almost unwanted before he found his way into the care of the young trainer.
“A mate of mine was contacted by the owner Donna Smart, he (Noble Boy) was sitting in the paddock for eighteen months and Donna wanted to know of anyone who would give him a go,” said Blowes.
"He was sitting in the paddock for eighteen months and Donna wanted to know of anyone who would give him a go." - Todd Blowes on Noble Boy
Having never raced as a two and three year-old, Noble Boy is a raw, uneducated talent who has taken plenty of time.
Noble Boy was in work for nearly four months before his first barrier trial at Canberra where he missed the start by four lengths, finishing a hard-held third. A week later Blowes took Noble Boy to Moruya on the South Coast, and it was after that barrier trial he realised he might have a pretty handy horse.
“I trialled him with a handy one of Matt Dale’s, Velvet Aeroplane (Artie Schiller), and he just knocked it off. They gapped the third horse and that day I thought 'there’s something special,'” said Blowes.
A dose of brilliance
Two weeks later and Albury was the venue for the race debut of Noble Boy, about a three-and-a-half hour float trip down the Hume Highway from Queanbeyan. Again he missed the start at Albury, two lengths this time, settling well-back and wide, he got onto the wrong leg turning into the straight before flattening out and unleashing a sprint rarely seen on country tracks.
He went from six lengths off the leader at the 400 metres and rounded them up at the 100 metres to win by two-and-a-half lengths. It was an enormous win - despite his mistakes, ability got him through.
"He got onto the wrong leg turning into the straight before flattening out and unleashing a sprint rarely seen on country tracks." - Anthony Manton
It was start number two at Goulburn on Saturday, from maiden to class one, which is never as easy as it seems. Blowes engaged leading country jockey Mathew Cahill for the ride to 'stand over the horse and educate him', but also give an honest assessment of his ability.
Again he missed the start and was forced to race back and wide. The pace was slow for a 1200 metre race with the leader running easy sectionals in front, making it hard for those coming from the back. Noble Boy pulled his way up to the leaders four wide on turn before putting in a short sharp sprint between the 300 metres and 200 metres. Cahill eased him up late to win by nearly two lengths, barely breaking a sweat.
Country Championships target
Noble Boy is by Bon Hoffa (Belong To Me) and the first foal to race from Dignity Lady (Manner Hill) who won one race from forty-four starts in the bush, hardly a pedigree that jumps off the page! In his two wins Noble Boy has overcome difficulties that only good horses can get away with. But he’s still got a bit to learn before a crack at next year’s Country Championships according to Blowes.
“I said to Mathew (Cahill) I just want him settling, I wanted him to be ridden back because our aim is to get him to 1400 metres here (Goulburn) early March for the [country championship] qualifier,” said Blowes.
Noble Boy is likely to have one more start this preparation at Rosehill in the TAB Highway 1200 metre class two on December 1 before a short let-up, then back early in the new year aiming at the Country Championship Qualifier 1400 metres at Goulburn Sunday March 3rd 2019.
“I said to Mathew I just want him settling, I wanted him to be ridden back because our aim is to get him to 1400 metres here early March for the qualifier." - Todd Blowes
Having grown up in the country and being fortunate to travel to many tracks throughout the NSW state calling races, the Country Championships has been a series I have followed closely since its inception in 2015 and I can draw some similarities between this year’s winner Victorem (I Am Invincible) at the same stage. Noble Boy, both raw and untapped but equally as talented with a hint of arrogance.