Against the odds
By TONY WHITE
FOR a racehorse able to chew food only on one side of its mouth due to a jaw problem, the Wayne 'Henry' Lawson-trained Starlactic continues to put the bite on his rivals.
And for electrician and hobby trainer Lawson, the four-year-old's recent form is manna from heaven.
Starlactic, bred from a mare given to Lawson after her racing career ended prematurely, has won its past two starts at Doomben in Brisbane and this Saturday will attempt to complete the hat-trick at the same track in a 1010m Handicap.
Starlactic, by Celestial Dancer, is the fourth foal from Himno, a winner of three races who broke down after just nine race starts.
"The others were no good but this bloke's flying," Lawson said said gleefully.
The gelding's jaw problem stems from an accident when Starlactic was being broken as a young horse.
"He had a mishap and has a crooked jaw," Lawson explained.
"It's a hairline fracture of the jaw and has moved over onto the skull area. He has to chew on one side of his mouth to get some pain relief.
"One side of his teeth are actually 15 centimetres longer than the other side. Oliver Liyou (vet) took a keen interest in the horse and did a lot of work on him.
"Because of the eating problem I have to manage his feed but he still eats up. His days are probably numbered. He'll one day have to have an operation but there's only one bloke in Australia can do it (operation) so I've just kept going with him as long as I can."
Lawson only took out a trainer's licence 13 months back and has no formal background in the wide variety of skills needed to be a successful trainer.
However, 'Henry', whose only previous knowledge had been through owning and breeding thoroughbreds over the past decade, is a good learner and avid listener.
"I just went with open ears to everyone," Lawson said.
"I must have driven some local trainers mad asking questions. I've just taken it all in, made some mistakes along the way but I just try and treat my horses like me ? good."
Lawson credits trackwork rider Byron Ryder with being instrumental in Starlatic's winning form.
"He's a cousin of mine and he's been the key to the horse," Lawson said.
"He was a big rawboned fella as a young horse and just used to run flat out, didn't know how to settle.
"Once you start getting up in grade they've got to learn how to settle and Byron has taught him, mainly this preparation."
As the grapevine would have it, under the family act, Ryder didn't ask for payment for his services, preferring the owners to have something on Starlactic and he'd cop a 'sling'.
The sling's been all right, too, Starlactic's past two wins ensuring the Christmas hamper can be adequately stocked. The gelding is owned by other family members, Lawson's wife Paula, his mum Kay, father Max and close friends Andrew, Desely, Errol and Pauline Woods.
Until recently Starlactic was the only horse under Lawson's care.
Grafton businessman Arthur Lysaught has since given a lightly raced four-year-old mare, Miss Devil Chaser, to the local electrician.
At the Ballina TAB meeting last Saturday Miss Devil Chaser saluted first up in a Class 1 Handicap and further cemented the relationship.
Expect sparks to be flying and Christmas cheer aplenty if Starlactic can again eat up his rivals at Doomben.