DEFIBRILLATE - The racehorse that keeps on giving

DEFIBRILLATE: The racehorse that keeps on giving

By Sally Blyth

(This article appeared in the Autumn 2023 Owners Bulletin). 

This well-named and highly talented 8YO bay gelding by Shocking (AUS) out of Our Chickaroonie (NZ) is part-owned by Graeme McInteer, a Wellington-based longtime member of the Manawatu Owners Association. Sally Blyth spoke to Graeme about his pride and joy and his road to racing glory.

Graeme’s passion for racing was formed in his early years through his family’s love of the sport. His parents would take the kids to picnic race days at Trentham and Graeme was hooked from a young age. He has been a thoroughbred racehorse owner for some 30 years now and manages the McInteer Family Syndicate which races Defibrillate in partnership with G Richardson (who trains the horse), A Harris, D Lumsden, B McCullum, S Swap, L O'Sullivan & B Priest.

There are many pathways to racehorse ownership and Graeme’s started with a gelding he raced with Kevin Gray back in the 1990s. He struck up a friendship with Kevin’s son Stephen (now a prominent trainer in Singapore) and together they had success with a gelding called Final Forecast who provided Lisa Allpress her first winning ride. The horse won six out of 42 starts and clocked up plenty of placings, thus giving Graeme a taste of the winning thrill.

Final Forecast was retired in 1998 and when Graeme heard trainer Graham Richardson on the radio back in the early 2000s, his interest was piqued again. At the end of the interview Graham R was asked if he had any horses available. Caught somewhat off guard, he mentioned he had a Groom Dancer mare. So, Graeme M rang Graham R to find out more and decided to take a small shareholding in that horse. Called Our Chickaroonie, she had just one start in 2004 before being retired due to injury.

As the other syndicate members dropped out, Graeme M suggested to Graham R that they should breed from Our Chickaroonie. While Graham R wasn’t initially keen on the idea, he eventually conceded and along came the talented Italian Princess (Bertolini) who won on her second start in November 2009. There was great hope in the ownership camp when she lined up as favourite in the 2011 Railway at her ninth start after two back-to-back wins. Alas, the result was a disappointing 11th of twelve runners. After a few more runs, it was evident she had decided she didn’t want to be a racehorse anymore and was retired. With five wins from 12 starts, her good, albeit shorter-than-hoped-for, racing career was over.

Our Chickaroonie had a couple more [slow] foals and then a goodie that was sold to Hong Kong and had success there (Love Shock, by Shocking). The team decided to send their mare back to Shocking and on 2nd September 2014 Defibrillate was born.

His first start was in May 2019 as a 4YO but he got no favours and it was a tough run for 8th. He turned the tables by winning his next two in a row in August and September 2019. Confidence was high and, given the horse had quickly got to a level beyond NZ racing at the time, connections decided to take him to Australia where he went to Paddy Payne.  

After immediately clocking up two wins from his first two starts in Australia (Moe in October and Moonee Valley in November 2019), it was evident that this was a very worthwhile call. It was also serendipitous that Graeme M and his family already had flights to Melbourne booked and were lucky enough to be there on course to see him in action.

Defibrillate went on to give his owners six more wonderful wins during his Australian campaign (October 2019 to May 2022). That's 8 wins from 24 starts over there and included an impressive four-in-a-row winning streak between December 2020 and February 2021 at both Caulfield and Flemington. Of particular note, he won the Lord Stakes 1700m Listed Race on Boxing Day 2020 and the Victoria Cup 2000m Listed Race on 20th February 2021, both at Caulfield. He also had plenty of placings during his Australian campaign.

The initial thought process around taking him to Australia was to pick up the odd race but he showed more ability than his owners had dared hope for. Once he got to his level in Australia, the options were to stay there and run him at WFA against extremely good horses or in handicaps where he would get huge weights to carry. The other option was to bring him back and have some fun in New Zealand’s richer races.

The team chose the latter and, back on NZ turf, Defibrillate lined up in the Livamol Classic at Hawkes Bay on 15th October 2022 with Jonathan Parkes on board. On a Heavy10 track, he put in a gutsy effort for a third placing behind Mustang Valley.

Next up was the Balmerino Stakes on 1st November 2022 at Pukekohe Park with Craig Grylls at the helm. On a Soft6 track he put in a huge bid to get up on the line by a Head, beating The Mayor and Demonetization.

On Boxing Day 2022 he lined up in the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic, again at Pukekohe, this time with Warren Kennedy on top. It was a decisive and very stylish win, his 12th from 30 starts. On a Good3 track, he took over at the 200m mark and ran away to win by 1¾ lengths.

Next up was the Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa on 11th February 2023. Being topweight and up against a field of talented youngsters, he had his work cut out but showed his mettle running a strong fourth behind the outstanding Redwood galloper Sharp ‘N’ Smart. It was a brave effort especially considering he’d had to go forward earlier than planned.

A month later, on 11th March 2023, he was back to contest the Bonecrusher Stakes at Pukekohe, again as topweight and again with Warren Kennedy on board. The pair copped a major check on the run home when making a winning bid. Badly bumped and squeezed out of contention, they had to settle for fifth. Needless to say, these sorts of incidences are when owners can justifiably get cross as the difference in stakes at this level is significant. But it’s a case of taking it on the chin, for owners, jockeys and trainers alike – this is racing, and there are so many variables. There is a mention in the Steward’s Report but at the time of writing there is still no Stewards video footage of the race available to view although seeing the head-on footage on the day created a few gasps.

Graeme M has bred and owned a few other horses over the years, one being the delightfully named (but not so easy to spell) Zedeedudadeeko, a versatile type who raced over the jumps as well as on the flat between 2012 and 2019. By Zed, he won seven, with four of those being over the hurdles including the Great Northern and Wellington Hurdles.

Defibrillate will now have a well-earned spell and then follow a similar programme in his next campaign. He prefers better going, so connections are hopeful for an improved spring/summer season this coming year. It’s heartening that the plan to bring him back to aim for Group 1 winning glory in New Zealand paid off (fun and success combined!) and the team must be so proud of this boy who keeps on giving.

With over $1m in prize money, and so many thrilling wins both here and across the Tasman, a horse like Defibrillate is the sort we all dream of owning. The syndicate has a couple of horses in the pipeline and we wish Graeme and the family all the best for a happy racing future – with Defibrillate and any other horses who take to the turf for them.