‘Mission accomplished’: Mare to deliver trainer’s dying wish
VETERAN racehorse trainer Bill Ryan, who is dying from a chronic lung disease, had a dream of seeing his diminutive mare Still a Star find her way into the richest mile race in the world.
On Thursday, his dying wish was realised when Minnie, as she is affectionately known around Ryan's Tasmanian stables in Longford, was confirmed a definite starter in the rich All-Star Mile to be run over 1600m at Moonee Valley next month.
Ryan, 73, who is suffering from the incurable lung disease Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, was gobsmacked after his four-year-old came from the clouds to secure a berth by public vote in the race that boasts $5 million in prizemoney.
The All-Star Mile is primarily a popularity-based event that comprises a field of 15 of which
10 are voted in by the racing public with the remaining five runners gifted wildcard entries
into the race.
When the voting was removed from public view last Friday night, Still a Star was sitting precariously in 10th place with 4991 votes, with some believing she would be pushing it uphill to retain her spot.
But when voting closed at midnight last Sunday, she had rocketed up the leaderboard to finish with 9,954 votes and in fourth place behind three multiple Group 1 winners.
"I'm amazed by the amount of votes this mare received and we want to thank everyone who voted and gave me the chance to live a dream," Ryan said at his Longford stables.
"To be honest I never gave her a chance of getting in the race but the closer we got to the finish of voting the more confident I became."
Ryan says he will defy doctors' orders to fly and travel to Melbourne to see his mare run on March 13.
"If they think I'm going to miss the biggest day of my racing life then they are kidding themselves," he said.
Tasmanians rallied for the mare when voting opened four weeks ago, due mainly to the trainer's daughter Monica Ryan who took two weeks off work to focus on getting Minnie into the big race.
Monica said it was "mission accomplished."
"Why wouldn't any daughter do what I did for my Mum and Dad," she said.
"They have dedicated their whole life to racing and they deserve everything good that comes their way at this end of their journey.
"And I just had to do whatever I could to help get this wonderful mare into the race."
Racing Victoria's Executive General Manager, Greg Carpenter, said Still a Star's incredible vote grab over the final 46 hours of voting shocked everyone.
"We expected the likes of Arcadia Queen, Behemoth and Probabeel to prove popular with the voting public, but what we perhaps didn't anticipate was that the story of Still A Star would gain such traction in Tasmania and other states," Carpenter said.
Still a Star will line up in a Group 3 race in Tasmania on Wednesday for what will be her final hitout before taking on some of the best milers in the nation in the All-Star Mile.
TOP 10 - The All-Star Mile 2021
Order Horse | (State, Trainer) | Votes
1. Arcadia Queen (WA, Grant & Alana Williams) 15,105
2. Behemoth (SA, David Jolly) 14,699
3. Probabeel (NZ, Jamie Richards) 14,503
4. Still A Star (TAS, Bill Ryan) 9,954
5. Greysful Glamour (NSW, Mark Newnham) 9,821
6. Russian Camelot (VIC, Danny O'Brien) 8,460
7. Regalo Di Gaetano (SA, Richard & Chantelle Jolly) 8,168
8. The Harrovian (QLD, Toby & Trent Edmonds) 7,535
9. Sir Dragonet (VIC, Ciaron Maher & David Eustace) 6,335
10. Mr Quickie (VIC, Phillip Stokes) 6,168
Originally published as 'Mission accomplished': Mare to deliver trainer's dying wish