Aushorse – Keys To Like A Carousel’s Success

Like A Carousel (purple cap) drives to the line in the Listed Pakenham Cup (Racing Photos)

Like A Carousel is well named. The 8YO stayer has has been round and round – 52 times in fact – and had more than his share of ups and downs.

Saturday was definitely an ‘up’. Racing in the $250,000 Listed Sportsbet Pakenham Cup, Like A Carousel was on the second last line of betting at $41, but defied all expectations with a grinding finish to get home by a lip.

Trainer Ken Keys had considered Like A Carousel a “place chance” – particularly over the 2500m – but was a tad surprised to be standing in the winners’ stall.

Sure, this might have been Like A Carousel’s first score on the ‘flat’ since September 2014 (he had won over 3200m at Sale during a 3-run campaign over hurdles in June this year), but he’s not just there to make up the numbers.

“I could probably nominate 20 occasions when a bit more luck could have gone his way,” Keys points out. “He’s really been a marvellous horse: he could have easily won two Sandown Cups, he won the Listed Harry White over 2400m at Caulfield, ran third in a Sydney Cup and fourth in the Adelaide Cup. He’s got top four finishes in 11 stakes races and won nearly $700,000 ($678,570) in stakes. Not bad for a $10,000 yearling purchase!”

Operating from a 10 acre property at Devon Meadows in south east Victoria, Keys has trained at nearby Cranbourne racecourse since the mid 80s, producing a host of winners over the years including Group Two Sunline Stakes winner, Flushed, and Written Tycoon colt, Rich Enuff, who won the Group Two Danehill Stakes.

Flushed, who would go on to win $316,050, was purchased by Keys for $7,000 as a yearling in Victoria, while Like A Carousel was more of a ‘home town’ hero, with the astute trainer snapping him up for $10,000 from the Armidale Stud draft at the 2011 Tasmanian Magic Millions Yearling Sale.

“I’ve usually got around 20 in work and buy six or seven yearlings annually, but always like to pick up one or two in Tassie,” Keys explains. “It’s worked pretty well over the years, particularly with Like A Carousel.”

Keys hails from King Island, one of the more than 330 islands that make up the state of Tasmania and is situated in the Bass Strait … pretty much smack dab between Victoria and the Apple Isle.

Famous for its beef, cheese and crackin’ crayfish pies, King Island is spread over 1000 square kilometres and home to some 1,500 souls.

“My grandparents started farming on King Island and I grew up there,” Keys reveals. “My brother, Robert, is still on the island and trains horses too, while another brother, John, is a trainer in Tasmania.

“It was basically a case of you either played cricket or owned a horse!”

A carpenter by trade, Keys was enticed to the mainland over 30 years ago to train for a private owner, but it turned out to be something of a ‘carousel’ in the early days.

“The bloke I was to train for turned out to be broke, but I was too pigheaded to go back to King Island, so I decided to stay and here we still are,” Keys recalls. “I’ve had a few winners along the way so it’s all worked out in the end.”

It’s all worked out too for David Whishaw, a fourth generation breeder in Tasmania whose family’s Armidale Stud is the power house of a small, but tight knit breeding community.

Whishaw won’t be leaving local shores any time soon as he and the Armidale team are currently preparing 44 yearlings for 2018 sales (four in Melbourne and 40 for the Tasmanian Magic Millions at Launceston on 15 February).

Armidale Stud stood Like A Carousel’s sire Helike – ‘hell-a-key’ (named after an ancient Greek city submerged by a tsunami) – for six seasons but the Blushing Groom line stallion got sick and had to be euthanised in 2013.

“He was well related, but difficult to get breeders to support him as his progeny were always going to take time,” Whishaw adds.

“Helike ended up with only 98 live foals and 60 runners overall, but has incredibly produced four stakes winners including Tasmania’s Horse of the Year in 2016/17, Hellova Street, who has won seven stakes races, including a Group Three at Flemington.

“Full marks to people like Scott Brunton (Hellova Street’s trainer) and Ken for having the patience with them because it’s really paid off.”

Like A Carousel is the fifth live foal from Spinning World mare, Carnival Ride, a close relation to dual Group Two winner and Group One placed, Love Comes To Town.

“Unfortunately, the mare (Carnival Ride) was pensioned off last year as she only had the one live foal after Like A Carousel (2009). Isn’t that always the way? She didn’t have anything of note until Like A Carousel, who we sold fairly cheaply as a yearling and then she does nothing after,” Whishaw says with a laugh.

“All jokes aside, it’s terrific when people get a result for little outlay. It just goes to show the strength of this industry … the horse costs $10,000 and makes 70 times that figure on the track.

“It also shows breeders what Tasmania is capable of producing, particularly given the recent success of Tasmanian horses like Palentino, The Cleaner, Hellova Street and Kenjorwood on the mainland.”

Meanwhile, Keys said his Pakenham Cup winner is likely to tackle the Listed Bagot Handicap over 2800m at Flemington on New Year’s Day and possibly have another tilt at the Adelaide Cup.

“He (Like A Carousel) is an out and out stayer. There’s not a lot of options for him given the programming for longer trips and he really can’t win anything under 2500m,” Keys adds. “He absolutely loves his racing though and that stint over the hurdles in June really worked in his favour. He’ll have another crack over the jumps next winter.”

HOOFNOTE: King Island races seven times a year in December and January with the majority of trainers, jockeys, bookies and stewards flying in for the occasion. Keys continues to support the carnival with a couple of horses having remained on the island since earlier this year, while brother Robert fielded seven of the 25 runners at the opening 4-race program on 2 December.

King Island has staged horse racing since 1892 when first prize was invariably wallaby skins (which, as anyone driving around King Island after dark would know, wallabys are not in short supply).