By TONY WHITE
IT didn't take long for home town hero Starlactic to live up to his nickname after returning from his brilliant win in the $75,000 QTC Lightning Handicap (1000m) at Eagle Farm last Saturday.
On Sunday morning trainer Wayne 'Henry' Lawson was concerned the four-year-old was "not as bright as normal and a bit doughy," following a hard run on a wet racing surface.
Enter part-owner 'Woody', Andrew Woods, a close mate of Lawson's.
Woods arrived at the stable to check on Starlactic's well-being.
"Woody went into the yard and 'Nipper' finished up kicking him in the knee and biting him on the back," Lawson said.
"Woody's got a bruise as big as a cricket ball on his back from the bite.
"Woody came out saying 'you're kidding, there's nothing wrong with the horse'."
That's Nipper, Grafton's equine Shooting Star.
The gelding can be a bugger, a human nightmare. Several of Starlactic's handlers, Lawson included, have felt the gelding's bite. So too have Starlactic's rivals.
But hobby trainer Lawson, an electrician by trade, wouldn't swap him for the world, nor several big money offers which have rolled in for the gelding who took his record to nine wins and four placings from 16 starts when he lit up the track winning the Listed Lightning. Not since Star Of Sequalo, the Grafton Gazelle, have Graftonians had genuine racehorse to claim as their own.
"He's turned into a people's horse. They love him here. He's generated a big following," Lawson confirmed.
Brisbane race caller Alan Thomas said on air over the weekend: "I love him. He's an outstanding racehorse."
Thomas said the horse had been given a preparation similar to Takeover Target which cut its teeth on country tracks and went on to win the Ramornie Handicap. It's now one of the best in the land.
Thomas believes punters on the eastern seaboard will see a lot more of Starlactic at major Australian race meetings in the next 12 months.
Owners of the son of Celestial Dancer have been offered $600,000 to part with their pride and joy.
"No way," Lawson, who trains just two thoroughbreds, said.
"We had an offer of $600,000 but we knocked it back."
Greater riches beckon.
Understandably, Lawson is proud of Starlactic's achievements.
"I learned a long time ago place your horses in the worst company and put yourself in the best," he said of the tried and true racing adage.
Lawson, licensed for a mere two years, has done a remarkable job guiding Starlactic through his grades.
Last Saturday, Starlactic was badly weighted at his first attempt in a stakes race.
And weight is playing heavily on the trainer's mind.
The time-honoured $125,000 Black Toyota Ramornie (July 12) during the July Carnival was one of the gelding's major targets this preparation.
Lawson intends to nominate Starlactic for Saturday's $175,000 Listed Eye Liner Stakes (1200m) at Ipswich. However, the gelding, at this stage, is unlikely to run.
What weight he gets will particularly interest Lawson with a view to the Ramornie.
The more likely assignment will come at Doomben on Saturday week in the $175,000 Group 3 W J Healy Stakes (1200m), where he could clash with another top line Ramornie contender, Natural Destiny, trained by Gordon Yorke.
Lawson confirmed young Brisbane apprentice Ric McMahon will retain the Starlactic mount.
"The horse has just amazed me," Lawson said.
"We want to win the Ramornie, he's a home town horse, but if they give him too much weight I'll put him away. I'm not going to bust him."
The final chapters in the fairytale, battler made good story, are yet to be written.