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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Takeover Target’s Rags To Riches Story From ‘Broken Down Dud’ To Champion Racehorse

Takeover Target’s Rags To Riches Story From ‘Broken Down Dud’ To Champion Racehorse

Proud Takeover Target  owner and trainer Joe Janiak understandably gets emotional when he reflects on champion Takeover Target’s fairy tale rags to riches story.

It’s a story firmly entrenched in racing folklore with the former taxi driver turning a $1,250 purchase into an international racing sensation which accumulated more than $6 million in prizemoney.

Takeover Target was tragically put down in June 2015 after injuring himself in a paddock accident, aged 15.

Owned and trained by Janiak, the champion sprinter finished his career with a phenomenal 21-6-4 record from 41 races.

Originally told that he had bought a “broken down dud”, Janiak threw caution into the wind and bought the yearling for just $1,250 and as history would dictate, it was the beginning of a famous racing rags to riches story.

“If I had known the story behind him, I would have never put my hand up to buy him,’’ Janiak told Unibet racing expert Craig Moore.

“But 99 percent of the people who were there at the sales, they knew the story behind him, they knew he had ability but he couldn’t just produce it.
“And even when I sort of lined up to pay for him, the bloke in front of me, he said ‘mate you’ve bought yourself a dud, that horse had just broken down’ and I said ‘oh well, I’m stuck with him now’.”

As fate would dictate, Takeover Target’s maiden win was by 7 lengths in Janiak’s hometown of Queanbeyan and it was the first of seven straight wins as a legend was born.
Takeover Target went on to win eight Group 1 races and he won in every Australian capital city, becoming the first horse to achieve that feat since Dark Ksar more than 30 years ago.
The champion sprinter also raced around the world and won major races against the world’s leading sprinters in marquee sprints in England, Singapore and Japan.
Despite his success and widespread popularity overseas, especially in the UK where a bar in Ascot is named after the horse, Janiak fondly recalls his Salinger Stakes win at Flemington in 2004 as Takeover Target’s most memorable race win.
“To me personally when he won the Salinger, it’s an achievement for me to win a group race which I never thought I’d be able to do,’’ Janiak said.

“Probably the horse’s personal best would be winning in Japan where he beat the best sprinters in the world and then in his final year, when he won the TJ Smith.
“That was just a phenomenal win and he just beat the best sprinters in Australia that day.”
Injuries though, threatened to derail the champion sprinters’ racing career and he was never a healthy horse from the get-go.

Janiak nursed him to peak fitness by looking after him, spacing his runs and keeping the weight off his back.
“The horse always had the ability, but he wasn’t suited to the Sydney way of training,” Janiak explained.

“He needed space, and he needed a different approach to him which I was lucky enough to be able to give it to him and it worked.”
In addition to the Salinger, Janiak and Takeover Target joined forces to collect wins in the Lightning Stakes (2006), Newmarket Handicap (2006), King’s Stand Stakes (2006), Sprinters Stakes (2006), Doomben 10,000 (2007), KrisFlyer International Sprint (2008), TJ Smith Stakes (2009) and The Goodwood (2009).

All of those wins were piloted by champion jockey Jay Ford (pictured below) with Nash Rawiller jumping in the saddle for the TJ Smith Stakes.

Janiak’s owner and training relationship with Takeover Target extended beyond the champion sprinter’s whirlwind achievements on the racetrack.
After a rocky start to their partnership where Janiak sustained a hefty blow to the head from the horse which saw the trainer receive 30 stitches, their relationship quickly grew into an impregnable bond.

“He was a nasty horse from the day go, probably because of all the pain he was going through from his younger days and being stabled all the time,’’ Janiak said.
“The first six months, had a lot of problems with him, he reared up and struck me and put 30 stitches in my head, but I eventually got around to him.
“I found out what he liked and found out he liked the same things I do, which was to drink beer or bourbon!”

So, what’s next for Janiak?
The former taxi driver is still involved in the racing industry and while he hasn’t trained for the last couple of years, he still maintains an interest in breeding at his stable at Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast.
There’s also the possibility of a movie about Takeover Target, and while a projected movie hasn’t come to fruition just yet, Janiak is hopeful a documentary or movie is made about the champion racehorse one day.
“It’s a good story and it keeps people interested in racing for sure and that’s what everyone dreams about,’’ he said.