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Green watched from his living room as the horse he selected to buy before he was even 12 months powered to a front-running victory in New Zealand’s greatest race four years on.
With Green stuck in Auckland and owners Meg and Merv Butterworth forced to watch from Australia, all New Zealand Cup responsibility was left to driver Blair Orange.
When Orange took Copy That to the lead, his 76-year-old trainer knew from his lifelong involvement in harness racing that his horse was nearly unbeatable from that point.
But it did not mean he was not in for one of the most stressful four-minute periods of his life.
“He was never going to get beat once he strolled two easy halves [800m]. I thought they were never going to beat him.
“Self Assured is a very good horse but we have beaten him in the past in the same scenario and I think our horse is a lot stronger this year.
“It was stressful. You don’t realise how stressed out you were until it’s over. It was very emotional once he crossed the line.”
Orange delivered a front-running performance fitting of his status as New Zealand’s premier reinsman by expertly controlling the tempo.
After his brilliant effort to guide Copy That to his commanding win, the reinsman was typically humble, suggesting he was lucky to land the drive on such a brilliant horse.
“It is a very special moment. It is the pinnacle of our racing year and it is hard enough to get a drive in it let alone a leading chance,” Orange said.
Copy That’s victory offered redemption for his camp after the pacer was a victim of a controversial start to last year’s race which severely affected his winning chances.
The pacer’s win also completed an epic journey which started when Green and wife Debbie bought the horse home from a weanling sale for $7500, which has looked like a bargain for some time.
Green admitted he and his wife have had their ups and downs with the pacer since, but it was all made worthwhile when Copy That wrote himself into the greatest chapter of New Zealand harness racing’s history.
“It wasn’t all beer and skittles; it took a while for him to materialise.
“But I always knew he had a bit of speed, so you persevere and this is the end result.
“I have had a lot of the drivers be very good with him in his progress. They’ve looked after him when he was doing things wrong and I appreciate all of them.”
The Greens sold Copy That to the Butterworths as a 3yr-old, which allowed the Australian owners to live a second New Zealand Cup dream following their victory with Arden Rooney in 2015.
“Debbie never wanted to sell him, but you have got to be realistic. We are not rich people and when you are offered a lot of money you have to sell,” Green said.
“We have still got him to train, so it has been a win-win — the owners that bought him have been great.
“They are very loyal owners. I am just extremely grateful for this horse. There are a lot of people involved.
“From the vets to the staff, to [Lincoln Farms owner] John Street, there are so many people.”
Although robbed of the chance to see his career and life-defining win in the flesh, there was one advantage in Green being able to watch the New Zealand Cup from home alongside his wife and his staff.
Celebrations started before Orange and his team on the ground got the hopples off Copy That.
“There is a party going on here — there is Champagne sprayed everywhere.
“It is almost like one of those Formula One podium jobs.”
Copy That won in 3min 58.8sec, winning by 2½ lengths over last year’s winner, Self Assured, with South Coast Arden third.
- By Jonny Turner