Myalup trainer Michael Campbell is glad he had a change of heart.
Pocketing $155,000 in prize money and bonus’ with the promise of more to come is a pretty good motivator, but for Campbell it’s more than just the dollars and cents.
After a lifetime in racing and a successful one at that, Campbell was prepared to wave goodbye to a sport that had formed a major part of his life.
Racing’s relentless lifestyle can be savage on its participants, the long hours, the hard work and for some, the lack of reward, can cause a physical and mental toll.
Despite his experience and success over multiple years, Campbell was not immune to its impact and he was ready to pack it in, a couple of back operations was slowing him down.
But then came along a horse called Bitofmerit and a promise he made to his family.
“I had enough a couple of years ago,” Campbell told The Races WA.
“I had a couple of spinal fusions and thought about giving it away.
“I had enough until I started riding this horse (Bitofmerit) and I thought I’ll keep going for a while.
“He gives me a real buzz and I always promised my daughter we would race a horse together if I found one that was good enough.
“It’s different when you are training for somebody else and we have been in it for a fair while.
“It’s a huge thrill when your daughter and family are involved.
“It can bridge a family together.
“There are a lot of lows in this game and it’s not an easy caper, I can tell you.
“I was a dairy farmer before I started training and it’s hard work.”
Bitofmerit gave a glimpse of his budding talent when he scored a brilliant win on debut at Belmont last September.
A son of Demerit, he easily accounted for Buzzoom, who subsequently won the Burgess Queen Stakes (1400m) and ran second in the Champion Fillies Stakes (1600m).
Bitofmerit was equally as impressive at his second race start three months later when he stormed home from the back of the field to win by a slashing 2 ¼ lengths.
It was then that others began to share Campbell’s big opinion of Bitofmerit with the gelding attracting significant interest from interstate and overseas buyers.
Bitofmerit’s appeal and value was further enhanced at Belmont last Saturday when he won first up over 1000m as hot favourite, keeping his undefeated status intact.
“It was a relief,” Campbell said.
“You are in the dark a bit because we work him at home.
“But he pulled up very good which is good.
“I was hoping for a three week gap between runs but you have to go where the calendar goes.
“I will step him up now, there’s a 1200m race in two weeks.
“He’ll have a gallop on Saturday and if I’m happy I’ll nominate him for that race.
“I wouldn’t doubt he could get a mile in time.
“If you go through his family they were good milers.
“Demerit’s are not essentially sprinters, they are versatile and run all distances.
“I personally think he will go further; I really do.”
Campbell won’t take solo credit for Bitofmerit’s success and insists Lucy Warwick deserves equal accolades.
The dual licensed jockey has been Bitofmerit’s constant companion throughout, partnering him in all his races and three trials.
“Lucy is brilliant and never lets me down,” Campbell said.
“It would be too hard without her.
“With Bunbury under redevelopment I am able to use her home track which is five minutes away from me.
“She is a great horse person and we get along terrific.
“She lives and breathes it and when she’s not with the horses she has her show jumpers.”
Campbell is too canny and experienced to declare his hand on Bitofmerit’s future plans, but if he maintains his progress he is destined for feature races at The Pinnacles carnival.
Campbell has kept Bitofmerit exclusively to the softer surface at Belmont Park, but the switch to Ascot is coming fast.
“I haven’t tried him at Ascot, but he’s a bit more mature now,” Campbell said.
“We’ll play it by ear a little bit and make a decision after his next start or so.
“I haven’t ruled anything out.”