Outsider romps to the line first

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Alex and Tracey Cowan with their galloping champion Signify.

By Mick Jensen

Mid Canterbury horse Signify has galloped to victory in the big-money Group 1 Telegraph Handicap at Trentham and put a huge smile on his owners’ faces.

The five-year old thoroughbred is owned by Tracey Cowan – who had a feeling he might produce something special – and trained by her husband Alex. It was bought for $5500.

He was a rank outsider for the 1200m Telegraph Handicap, but beat the two favourites to win the $250,000 race by a nose.

The Cowans watched from just past the finish line, but from their vantage point believed Signify had been pipped to the post.

“I did a little jump for joy when I saw the result,” said Alex Cowan, who was both a flat and jump jockey for 25 years.

Signify had wanted to work harder lately and his training had been stepped up.

The horse had been nominated for the Telegraph in mid November and was the last to be accepted in the 18-horse field, Mr Cowan said.

Jockey Racha Cunneen had been impressed with his form and was keen to ride him at Trentham.

The Cowans bought Signify at the South Island sales in 2013 for $5500.

Before the Telegraph race, the horse had enjoyed seven wins, eights seconds and a third from 29 starts.

It was Tracey Cowan who came up with the name ‘Signify’, because she liked the name.

She often calls him ‘George’, his stable name, and refers to him as a true “gentleman”.

“We usually purchase horses to sell later, but I put my foot down with Signify and told my husband that he (the horse) was staying, or I was going,” she joked.

Interest in the horse had been shown from buyers in Singapore and another horse bought at the same time, had gone to Hong Kong, but Signify had stayed, she said.

As the owner of the horse, Mrs Cowan received 60 per cent of the race stake. From her prize pool, she passes 5 per cent on to the jockey and 10 per cent to the trainer.

Signify travelled by land and boat to Trentham with his trainer, but poor weather in the Cook Strait almost delayed the trip.

Mrs Cowan said she had an “uncanny” feeling when walking the Trentham course before the race day.

“I don’t normally have moments like that, but I looked at the grass and thought this is a perfect track for Signify.”

The positivity continued on race day when she visualised a victory for her horse and began jotting down a few winning speech notes.

As well as the prize money, the Cowans now have a very impressive bronze and wooden trophy and a trainer’s trophy proudly displayed on the sideboard of their home on the edge of Tinwald.

Signify, who usually works out at the Ashburton Racecourse, is enjoying some down time in the paddock next door. The laid back horse will next race in a 1400m race in Te Rapa on February 11.