FROM CHUMP TO CHAMP: The world of racing fell in love with the fairytale story when Joe and Ben Janiak lined up with their champion, Takeover Target, to meet the Queen. AAP Image/Sportpix/Martin King
FROM CHUMP TO CHAMP: The world of racing fell in love with the fairytale story when Joe and Ben Janiak lined up with their champion, Takeover Target, to meet the Queen. AAP Image/Sportpix/Martin King

Fairytale ends for Takeover Target

I SWEAR every word you read here is true, even if it seems improbable.

A horse bought for $1375 collects over $6 million prize money and wins 21 races, including eight at Group 1 level in four countries.

He and part-owner-trainer Joe Janiak become sporting superstars and even get to meet the Queen after a famous victory at Royal Ascot.

They travel the globe and become idols of princes, paupers, prime ministers and mug punters, before settling down in Coffs Harbour.

That's the Takeover Target story in a nutshell but the expanded version reads like a Damon Runyon adventure novel.

At home in Coffs Harbour on the 2010 farewell tour. Trevor Veale
At home in Coffs Harbour on the 2010 farewell tour. Trevor Veale

The great racehorse, known as Boof or Archie, died in his paddock on the weekend.

The news caused grief throughout the racing world because this pair of pals were much more than just a man and his horse.

Joe loved that horse madly.

This writer saw that beautiful big animal with the huge splash of white down his face, give love in return.

One day I visited the Janiak stable to write a yarn about another of his nags, and there was old Boof in the corner stable.

He happily accepted my attention, getting a nose and neck rub and having his mane ruffled.

But whenever Joe came by, I got the brush-off.

Boof's eyes and head swivelled to his human companion and you could tell, the unspoken communication between the pair put them into a private universe where nobody else dared to enter.

Takeover Target was regally bred but his horrendous leg problem and a reputation as a problem child saw him sold for a song.

The horse began life in pain from that leg but with Joe delivering loving care and attention, the change was amazing.

Jockey Jay Ford drives to the line in the 2006 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. AAP Image/Sportpix/Martin King
Jockey Jay Ford drives to the line in the 2006 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. AAP Image/Sportpix/Martin King

The chump became a champ and with jockey Jay Ford added to the mix, a 'rags to riches' fairytale was complete.

Even in retirement, Joe and Boof remained racing royalty as they travelled Australia and the world as racing ambassadors.

Together they brought excitement and pleasure to tens of thousands who lined up to stroke the neck and pat the shoulder of one of the greatest racehorses to ever look through a bridle.

The people's champ, they called him.

Sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning, Takeover Target's problem leg finally brought him down.

That big, brave warrior horse with the heart of a lion, succumbed to nature and the dark of night covered the sound of the snap.

Sportswriters are supposed to be tough but when I heard the news, the eyes grew misty.

Bet I wouldn't have been the only one.



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