Wish To Land

A Blessing That's Landed

Wish To Land (photo: Pauline Herman)

A boy and his horse – Aldo is led in on Wish To Land (photo: Pauline Herman)

A few years ago, Carlsberg brought out a series of adverts featuring anything from flatmates to holidays with a ‘beyond your wildest dreams’ scenario and ending with the tagline, “Carlsberg don’t do holidays, but if they did, they would probably be the best holidays in the world.’  And that’s exactly what sprang to mind after PE’s races last week.

On Monday, 12 February 2018, a little after 4pm on an ordinary Fairview afternoon, a field of 10 faced the starter at the 1600m mark.

From the 9 gate a large, lanky chestnut jumped smartly, with his rider angling for a position as the field swung round the first bend. Slotting in neatly on the rail, the pair settled in midfield galloping comfortably. Turning for home, a gap opened and with that giant stride eating up the poly, they hit the front with 200m to go. The jockey checked over both shoulders as a late pretender found another gear to chase them home, but it was all over as the big chestnut cantered across the line, with a cheeky little salute from his rider.

It’s the little victories like this that make my day. The ordinary, MR62 handicaps that rarely trouble the racing scribes or historians, but nevertheless create the sort of memories that last a lifetime for the people involved.

The card reflects that the strapping chestnut is called Wish To Land and in a rather fun twist, his jockey, 2013 J&B Met winner Aldo Domeyer, is also his part owner. And just because karma occasionally gets it right, the win crowned a treble for Aldo on the afternoon.

Joy

Like any proud owner, the achievement got a mention on Aldo’s Facebook page: “1st for everything… 1st time winning on my very own horse! Made me proud my boy.. 3 wins from 4 starts. Wish to Land ❤ going to make some girl very happy someday.”

No Ordinary Jockey

Aldo Domeyer (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Aldo Domeyer (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

There aren’t too many jockeys that buy their own racehorses, nevermind taking their place among the little people in racing’s cheap seats, what’s going on? “I’ve done pretty much everything in racing from handling to riding work and now I’ve got the opportunity to be a jockey. Having my own horse just seemed a normal thing to do,” says Aldo.

Aldo purchased the 4yo Philanthropist gelding as a package deal along with a Black Minnaloushe gelding called Mini Loushe from Plattner Racing, transferring them both to Alan Greeff in PE. “I used to work for Plattner and this horse showed quite a bit if you look at his early form. He’s a big horse and I’ve always maintained that big horses come to hand a bit later than the smaller, more compact ones. The initial idea was to get a few friends involved, but I was quite fond of him so then I thought I’d rather keep him myself.”

Despite having a famous champion jockey for a dad and enjoying plenty of success on the track, it’s easy to forget that Aldo had to fight his way into the saddle and it took determination, hard work and a lot of help along the way. As a thank you, he’s given a share of his horses to his uncle who drove him to gallops all those years ago, and a share to his aunt. “It kind of shares the joy. I offered my dad a share, but he pulled out,” he laughs.

Kindness rewarded

Wish To Land (photo: Pauline Herman)

It’s a different feeling (photo: Pauline Herman)

Aldo explains that the original intention had been to get a win under the belt as quickly as possible and then retire the horse. “I thought the change of scenery and also the pace in PE would suit him and he’s taken to it so well. When I saw him in the parade ring on Monday, he looked so happy and so well, it was already a win. I didn’t think we had too much of a chance with the draw and was hoping for maybe a 5th or 6th. He may look a little sluggish on TV, but he was moving so well. When we hit the front, it was still quite a way from home and I was just thinking ‘please hang on, if we lose this, I’ll have no-one else to blame!” he chuckles.

There is no feeling on earth like leading in a winner. What does it feel like to ride your own winner across the line? “It’s a different feeling, hey?” he enthuses. “I’ve won some big races, and I’ve had my horses win while I was watching, and that’s not bad, but riding my own horse was extra special. I think it’s also nice to give back a little. It shows people you believe in the sport and care about it enough to put in your own horses and your own money.”

Both Wish To Land and Mini Loushe run in Aldo’s silks, which are white with a gold cross sash, gold stars on the sleeves and a white cap. “I’ve always had an idea in mind for silks. Those are the colours I wore to my matric dance and I think it’s come out well,” he says proudly.

Top Class

Wish To Land (photo: Pauline Herman)

Going to make some girl very happy (photo: Pauline Herman)

The bit that has attracted the most attention though, was Aldo’s reference to life after racing. From 5 starts in PE, Wish To Land has never finished out of the money, winning three times as well as earning a second and fourth place cheque. “Mini Loushe has won twice and placed twice from four starts, so from nine runs, they haven’t missed the money.” He attributes the good results to the excellent care both horses had under Plattner Racing’s Andre Nel and now in the hands of Alan Greeff. “They were very well taken care of on the farm. I just wanted to have a bit of fun and they’ve both done what I wanted and more – and probably a lot faster than I expected. So I might give them one, maybe two more runs and then they’ll be retired. It’s only fair. Also, I know it’s something Mrs Plattner would want for her horses too.”

Teasing that taking over a horse from a Met winning jockey might be a little daunting for any prospective home, Aldo laughs. “The reaction I’ve had so far has been fantastic and has opened up a lot of options, so we’ll see. I will make an effort to find them somewhere nice and make sure they both find a good home.”

Spreading The Joy

Always mindful of where he’s come from and the support it’s taken to get him where he is today, Aldo is working on an idea to share his success with Wish To Land with the people who helped him along the way. Logistics are still being fine-tuned, but he would like to put Wish To Land’s winnings towards thanking racing’s mainstay, the loyal, small punters, who are at the track rain or shine. “These people have basically seen us grow up and been there through our best moments and toughest times. One seldom sees them rewarded for their loyalty, so it’s something I really want to do.  It looks like Wish To Land is becoming more like a blessing that’s landed!”

In a rather great little post script to the story, it turns out that Wish To Land makes something of a habit of touching lives.  He was bred by Drakenstein Stud Farm’s grooms consortium and earned them a life-changing sum of money when he sold for R600k as a yearling.  Some horse indeed.

I don’t often get to do stories about jockeys riding their own horses, but when I do, they are probably the best stories in the world.

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