The fact German galloper Waldpark is even running at Flemington on Anzac Day is a testament to the team effort that saved his life.
Waldpark ran European star Novellist to a head in his homeland before struggling in his four Australian runs but worse was to follow for the entire.
The often deadly disease laminitis struck Waldpark while he was training for an autumn campaign, leaving trainer Anthony Freedman with the task of getting help for the six-year-old.
Freedman turned to young trainer Amy Johnston, the wife of his stable foreman, to save Waldpark’s life.
The grand-daughter of the famous jumps trainer Jim Houlahan was shocked when Waldpark arrived at her Mornington Peninsula property.
“He hopped off the truck and they said just `do whatever you can for him’, he was in a really bad way,” Johnston said.
The young horsewoman enlisted the help of farrier Michael Chase in her battle to keep Waldpark alive.
Chase provided corrective shoeing for Waldpark while Johnston changed the horse’s diet, treated him with magnetic therapy and placed his feet in support boots.
However, Johnston said there was a time she thought she would lose the battle to keep the German Derby winner alive.
“There was one day that I didn’t think he was going to make it and I thought he was going to have to go back to the Werribee vet clinic,” Johnston said.
“It was looking pretty grim.”
But Waldpark steadily improved over the subsequent weeks, earning himself an unabashed admirer along the way.
“Any other horse would have laid down and given up, he was that bad, and I really admire his character,” Johnston said.
“He’s such a beautiful horse to work with. I really had a bond with him.”
In line win Johnston’s recommendation, Freedman has trained Waldpark in a European style with long, slow work in his build-up to resuming in the Flt Lt Peter Arymtage Handicap (1610m).
Connections hope the Dubawi stallion can progress to the Group One Doomben Cup during the Brisbane winter carnival but just getting to Friday’s race will be a major victory for Waldpark.