Even the hardest workers and the best players need a bit of luck. Kevin Sheedy certainly had that when he was “last man on” in the syndicate that purchased the champion race horse and sire Bel Esprit.
The syndicate was being put together by one of Kevin’s great mates from his Essendon days, Brian Donohue.
It included the former Federal Minister, Michael Duffy, another Essendon supporter.
When Brian and Michael were just about to finalise the syndicate, Brian said “I think there’s someone missing, we should ask Kevin Sheedy if he’d like to come in”.
So Kevin got a share, one seventh, of the overall cost of around $13,000. The return on that investment has been enormous for all the investors. Michael Duffy says he even built a little shrine to Bel Esprit in his garden.
The horse turned out to be a champion runner, winning two group one races. It was when he got to stud that his pedigree, going back to the legendary Nijinski, a horse Kevin travelled all the way to Kentucky to see during an end of season trip while playing with Richmond.
When equine flu hit Victoria, Bel Esprit was one of the few quality stallions in Victoria. Woken up at all hours of the morning, he set a record for most coverings in a season – 264 mares. His record as a sire became even more highly regarded when a champion mare by the name of Black Caviar set a world record for most wins in a row, including one at Royal Ascot in England.
Kevin knew all about Black Caviar even before she won her first race, confidently predicant the success that followed. Racing, and a keen eye for a good horse, is as much a part of the Sheedy family history as football.
Kevin’s father Tom and mother Irene often took their family to the stables at Caulfield.
To Tom, horses like Tulloch were the champions he was in awe off, rather than footballers like Dick Reynolds, though the Sheedy’s barracked for Essendon. Irene also loved the horses, rarely missing the Warrnambool Carnival.
And then there is the lovely story that Kevin loves to tell about a wet and windy morning at track work, when he’d got up even before the sparrows to go and watch Bel Esprit in action.
Through the mist, he saw an elderly lady rugged up against the cold and wearing a big rain-coat. Being Kevin, he had to know who it was, and went to say g’day. When he got closer, he could see it was Mum.
“I just thought I’d keep an eye on Bel Esprit for you,” she said.
Being part of the Bel Esprit syndicate – even if you only own a hoof, as Kevin often jokes – was and remains an exciting thing.
A syndicate is a great way to be involved in horse racing.
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