Cranbourne trainer Udyta Clarke was overwhelmed when Heza Dude won the Land Engineering Plate (1200m) at Mornington last month.
The Kaphero gelding had been placed in his first 6 starts before the breakthrough. “I’m gonna cry I’m just so happy,” Clarke said before congratulating winning jockey Vlad Duric. “I love Heza Dude. He’s God’s gift to me for saving his life as a foal.”
Heza Dude (3g Kaphero – Skyla by Perugino) was orphaned twice before finally growing into a powerhouse. “How he survived I will never know,” Clarke said. “He put a hoof through his dam’s bladder while being foaled. She couldn’t lie down so the foal-alarm didn’t go off.
“When I discovered them in the morning, he was stone cold. I gave mouth-to-mouth and was about to give up after 20 minutes of CPR when, all of a sudden, his heart began beating so strongly it pushed me off balance.
“That’s how he got the nickname ‘Casper’.
“Skyla died three days later. The foal was tiny and couldn’t stand so there was always a chance of pneumonia. I tubed milk from another mare and walked him every hour – day and night – for three weeks.”
After emerging from the woods, Heza Dude was fostered to a warm-blood mare. “She produced so much milk, he started picking up but then she died from a snake bite.
“I tried to put him on a standardbred mare but he was already too much of a handful,” Clarke recalled. “By then, he recognised me – put his head in my lap and followed me everywhere.
“He began to bulk up and was very cheeky. The breakers weren’t keen because orphans have no fear. They said he would be very good or no good – nothing in between.
“He began to grow and grow and grow. He’s a stunning individual and is 16 hands now.”
Clarke races Heza Dude with breeder Don Allan and they received phone calls from Hong Kong and Singapore after the win at Mornington. “They drop off when I tell them about all the setbacks but that suits us.
“When we first sent Skyla to Swettenham Stud, they did a stallion match with Kaphero,” Clarke explained. “We’re hoping their prediction is correct – Adam Sangster came back and said there was every chance the foal could be a Group winner.”
Heza Dude had a fortnight’s break at Xmas in readiness for his second campaign. “We can’t let him out in a paddock for more than an hour a day,” Clarke said. “He goes flat out, rears up, pig-roots and loses too much weight.
“We reckon he’s right up to city class and he probably thinks so, too. He’s a human inside a horse’s body.”
– Karl Patterson