Commentator George Simon’s skills behind the microphone will be put to an unprecedented test in the opening event at Matamata on Saturday.
The vastly experienced and affable race caller has dealt with several runners in stable colours in the same event in the past, but anything he’s struck over the years pales into insignificance compared to the task ahead of him in the Mitre 10 Matamata Maiden (1400m).
Simon’s job has been taken to an extraordinary extreme by home track trainer Mark Walker, who has accepted with a remarkable 11 runners.
Espionage, Asperitas, Ifyourample, Patriarca, Sternland, Trieste, Fay Khan It, Savoire Faire and Romancing The Dream will all carry Te Akau’s tangerine and blue stars with only Elounda and She’s Outrageous in distinguishing silks.
“I have never struck this and certainly not since the days of Kenny Browne in the steeplechases, but most of those were at the trials,” Simon said.
“I remember one day he had 10 in his colours, but I’ve never seen anything like this on race day.
“I was counting them all up and I was thinking, you are kidding me. For a field that big and for Mark to have so many is unbelievable.
“It’s going to be an interesting way to start a premier day, put it that way.”
Extra homework will be required by Simon to commit the differing Te Akau caps to memory and made an understandable plea for the future.
“One of my little bugbears has been that when you get a situation with so many in the stable colours, is that instead of going out in a one coloured caps they mix them,” he said.
“It’s always confused me, you might get a tangerine and blue quartered cap, a tangerine and blue half cap, then one with stars and when you get to the 800m mark, which is normally the furthest point away, I’m flat seeing them.
“I’ve always said the best thing would be to have one in a white cap, a black cap, one in green, a pink cap, a tangerine cap and all just one solid colour.
“It would make the commentator’s job much easier, instead of a mixture.”
However, Simon does have some tricks of the trade to fall back on and, hopefully, find clarity in the face of a Te Akau onslaught.
“What I do is look for things like if they are wearing blinkers, if the horses are grey or chestnut and I pick the jockeys’ styles, just the way they are sitting up,” he said.
On a personal note, Simon will also be faced with containing his excitement when the barriers open for the Covag Limited 3YO (1400m), in which Denby Road will be out to further his record in his and wife Maryanne’s colours.
“He is an exciting horse and we’ve known for a little while that he does possess a fair bit of ability,” he said.
The Shelley Hale-trained son of Shamexpress showed his talent last month at Tauranga where he was an impressive debut winner.
“He had to do it on race day and it was pleasing to see. We were inundated with offers after his second trial win so we have taken a punt and at this stage we’ve obviously kept him,” Simon said.
“He’s kicked the first goal by winning a race and he’s up against a very smart filly on Saturday in Te Akau’s Stella Splendida, but I know Shelley is very happy with the horse’s progress.
“His work in the meantime suggested he has improved and we’re cautiously optimistic.
“We are looking toward the 2000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m), but if at any stage the horse tells us he’s not quite ready for it then he won’t go.
“The most incredible thing is that after opening at $81 for the Guineas, after winning a maiden on a Sunday he came in to $14. I don’t know where the money came from.”