BY BARRY LICHTER
There’s quite a tale behind how class clown Yogi, aka Del Shannon, found the winner’s circle at Cambridge on Sunday.
For a time it looked like Yogi’s playful antics would prevent Pete and Di McDermott and a group of their Cambridge friends from ever seeing him run on the racetrack.
You see, Yogi didn’t confine his daytime activities to his own paddock, regularly escaping by getting under hot wires. Once he even took on numerous gates and absconded with his paddock mate Tess on a joy ride to the next door neighbour’s property.
The McDermotts, who can monitor Yogi from their lounge window, delighted in his rare character, and dreamed of the day he’d show off his good genes on the track.
They bought him as a weanling from breeders Lyn Chilcott and Grant and Di Beckett, attracted by the fact he was by world champion stallion Muscle Hill out of Hot Chocolate Tart who won nine races for Nicky Chilcott.
But after taking in a whole bunch of friends, several of which had followed them down from Auckland when they set up home in Cambridge, the wheels fell off.
Yogi kept going lame for no apparent reason, then coming right, before going lame again.
“We didn’t know for ages what was wrong with him,” Chilcott said.
“Eventually we had scintigraphy done on him and discovered he’d fractured a shoulder.
“It was lucky he hadn’t done any more damage in all that time as he’s a really active horse.
“He was locked up in a box for a least four months then spent two more months in a tiny yard. We wanted to be extra careful because one wrong move and it could have turned into a catastrophic injury, he would have been toast.”
Yogi missed all his two-year-old season which, in hindsight, Chilcott says was a blessing in disguise.
“He was a December foal, so time was always going to be his friend, but he’s developed so much in the last year.”
Chilcott says while Yogi won at only his second start, he still has no real idea what he’s doing out there.
“Everything comes that easy to him so he doesn’t know how to race, he strolled up alongside them on Sunday and thought his job was done. He doesn’t know how to pin his ears back and race but he feels like he’s got more gears.”
Punters made Yogi favourite on Sunday after his unlucky debut run on the course 10 days earlier when, despite having to manouevre round early breakers, being checked before the home turn and badly held up in the run home, he still ran a close fourth.
“That effort was so professional and even on Sunday he was push button, when I had to take hold of him he came back to me straight away and I could have dropped the reins in the dust sheet.”
Sadly, the McDermotts and all bar one of their partners, track support staffer Nes Turan, couldn’t be there to see Yogi’s maiden triumph, while Noel and Jan Burnside, Rex and Jan Hooton, Christine and Graeme Gillanders, Roger Carroll, Cliff Thomas, Judy Bowen, Steve and Karen Hollander, Kelvin and Cherry Neville, Jo Turan and breeders Lyn Chilcott and Grant and Di Beckett are looking forward to the dropping of Covid restrictions.
The ease of Yogi’s win on Sunday confirmed Chilcott’s pre-race tip that he was White Star’s four star bet of the day and a good horse to follow, with plenty more wins in store.
And, don’t worry, when Yogi has a freshener at Chilcott’s spelling block now he goes into a paddock with solid fences all round so he can’t repeat his Houdini act.