Interest far and wide in return of U May Cullect today

U May Cullect starts the furthest back of all the runners in race 7 at Winton tomorrow. PHOTO:...
U May Cullect. PHOTO: KATIE SUTHERLAND
The wait is finally over. Southern sensation U May Cullect is back.

He will start at Winton today for the first time since a tendon injury forced him into a lengthy rehabilitation following his only raceday defeat over a year ago.

Owner Tom Kilkelly has given the horse more than eight months’ walking to strengthen the troublesome tendon.

The 7yr-old’s rise from obscurity to win his first eight starts made U May Cullect a pinup horse known across Australasia, and something of an equine cult hero.

Kilkelly admitted the interest in the horse’s progress had been incredible and almost overwhelming.

"You take a maiden to the races and it goes all right. Who cares — it’s no big deal," the owner said.

"But with this horse it is more for other people than just me."

"There are so many people across Southland and New Zealand looking forward to the horse going, and going good, that you feel like you are letting people down if he doesn’t go good."

U May Cullect will not be at peak fitness when he steps away from the 20m back mark in race 10.

The pacer has not had a trial or a workout to prepare him for his return with his Oreti Beach trainers Kirstin Barclay and Paul "Tank" Ellis wanting to limit the stress on the horse’s body as he prepares his ultimate goal, the New Zealand Cup.

"The plan is — Kirstin and "Tank" are doing it — is to just give the horse a few starts and get him ready for the cup," Kilkelly said.

"He is such a natural athlete that you don’t have to go out and grind and go to all the race meetings to get him fit.

"You are better off not having all those starts."

So far, so good.

"The tendons are all good. We were a wee bit concerned, so we took him to [vet] Brendon Bell and he scanned him, as well as X-rayed him."

Bell said if he was having to sign the horse off for export overseas he would have been happy to sign the docket, Kilkelly said.

U May Cullect’s only defeat was in the corresponding race at the same Winton meeting last year when he got well back on a good speed.

Kilkelly said Barclay had advised stewards she intended to drive the horse with one late run in the 2400m handicap.

That gives U May Cullect’s rivals an opportunity to pinch a break and set him a a difficult task to win, as they did last year.

Punters should expect the 7yr-old’s main rival, Spirit Of St Louis, to be trying to do exactly that and turn the 2400m handicap into a test of stamina.

The Graeme Anderson and Mike Love-trained pacer goes in to the race with the benefit of three post-lockdown starts, including a creditable sixth placing behind Self Assured in the Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington.

U May Cullect also clashes with Pembrook Playboy, Franco Santino (last year’s winner), Jazzy Star and Memphis Tennessee.

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