259 days since his last start, 658 days since his last win and 3 ½ years since he last raced in Perth, Vega Magic scored a sensational comeback victory in the Amelia Park Roma Cup (1200m).
“I could never, ever be so emotional after a race,” Sean Casey said.
Casey, who co-trains with son, Jake, choked back tears as Vega Magic scored a stirring win over The Velvet King and Durendal in the Group 3 feature, with a short-neck and a nose the difference in a sensational climax to the $160,000 race.
It was an emotional homecoming for Casey who prepared Vega Magic to win nine races in Perth before the gelding left for Melbourne after taking out the Scahill Stakes (1400m) in 2016.
Under the guidance of David Hayes, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig, Vega Magic showcased his brilliance on the east coast with dual Group 1 wins in the Goodwood (1200m) in Adelaide and the Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
But after a series of poor performances, capped off by trailing the field in The Heath (1100m) at Caulfield last August, Vega Magic’s career looked in serious jeopardy and he returned home.
“The horse raced so well over here and we related him to doing a tour of duty when he went over east,” Casey said.
“He left the family as a warrior and did so well for the Hayes team and he has done so well for George (Daly) when he was in better days and he’s done it today.
“For whatever reason, he went off the boil, David Hayes and Tom Dabernig said there was nothing wrong with the horse, take him home and see what can transpire.”
Relishing a familiar environment, Vega Magic regained his zest and had a trouble-free build-up to his return.
The son of Lope De Vega was given three trials over 1000m and looked sharp in winning all heats between December and April.
Downplaying his role, Casey said it took a collective effort to get Vega Magic back to his competitive best.
“Jake (Casey) and Bonny (Palise), Jake’s partner, have been doing a lot of jumping on him,” Casey said.
“Paddy (Carbery) has been doing his latest fast work gallops, Jake was doing his lead up workouts.
“Bonny had been doing a lot of flat work. There were that many chiropractors and vets and track riders, that many people have put their finger on this horse since he has been back.
“That many people have helped us, it’s just amazing how many phone calls I’ve had this week and every one of his service providers did what they do on him.
“The farriers, the whole lot, in these times, it really was a miracle.”
After opening favourite on fixed odds, Vega Magic eased to $4.60. Angelic Ruler, who flashed home in the fastest final 600m, held $4 market lead. Flirtini was next at $4.20.
Ridden by Pat Carbery, Vega Magic settled away from the fence after jumping from barrier three and took the lead with Durendal keeping him company on his inside.
Both gallopers went stride for stride in the straight before Vega Magic took control over the final 50 metres.
The Velvet King kept coming after racing wide and lost no admirers in defeat. A brave Durendal held third over the fast-finishing Flirtini and Angelic Ruler.
The Roma Cup took Vega Magic’s record to 14 wins from 27 starts with prize money and bonuses just a touch over $4 million.
Daly, who bred Vega Magic and is considered one of Western Australia’s best horseman, sadly passed away earlier in March.
His brother, Wally, races Vega Magic in partnership with George’s wife, Gill.
Vega Magic was the entrée to a red-letter day for the Casey, Carbery and Daly combination.
30 minutes later highly-rated three-year-old Laverrod won the Western Race Pix Horse Of The Year Handicap (1400m).