Veteran horse trainer Reg Rowley ended his career on a high.
Changing former protege Tom’s Rocket from a nervous colt into a gentle giant still puts a smile on Rowley’s face.
However, he knew there was only so much he could do for the talented gelding.
Rowley handed Tom’s Rocket over to Sydney trainer Joe Pride in March, a move he says was for the best.
Tom’s Rocket will make a play for inclusion in next month’s Epsom Handicap field when he races in the Bill Ritchie Handicap at Rosehill on Saturday.
“I miss the horse very badly but I don’t think I could have given him the 100 per cent chance that Joe can,” Rowley says.
“It was a very hard decision but I had to think of what was best for the owner and the horse.”
He thought Pride would be the best trainer for the lightly-raced five-year-old.
“I’ve taken the rough edges off and now Joe can do the polish work,” he says.
Rowley, who owns 10 per cent of the gelding, bred him from New Zealand mare Lochella.
He knew Tom’s Rocket was going to be special, despite starting out as a nervous colt.
“When we had him broken in, I got him and couldn’t believe he was so frightened,” Rowley says.
He says the big horse was easily spooked and needed a lot of patience and reassurance while training.
“There has been a long and careful preparation with him,” Rowley says.
“But I believed in the horse from what he showed me straight away.”
So, he persevered and was rewarded with third place on the horse’s first run.
“He’s now a lovely, big gentle giant,” Rowley says.
“I knew if we pushed him, he would have ended up a ratbag and he wouldn’t be racing today.”
With his Port Macquarie stables empty after handing over Tom’s Rocket, Rowley retired.
The 63-year-old has moved back to Sydney to be closer to his family and seven grandchildren.
Rowley still talks to Pride about Tom’s Rocket every week and says the horse will always be one of the family.
“He’s (Tom) still my mate, win, lose or draw,” Rowley says