CHRISTEN ME (Christian Cullen-Splendid Dreams gelding)
Christen Me was the horse every trainer dreamed of having walk in the stable.
After a spring 3YO injury at his second start when initially with Mark Purdon and Grant Payne, Christen Me was entrusted to Cran by owners, Charlie Roberts and Vicki Purdon, and just continued to bloom, winning his first eight straight for Cran.
Naturally gifted with speed and stamina, Christen Me came and conquered with dual Australasian Grand Circuit honours, winning $2.4 million in Australasian earnings in the maroon and white Kentuckiana Lodge colours.
Stable foreman Murray Howard relished the opportunities to tag with trainer Cran Dalgety on most of the away missions, having him primed and ready to go with Cran usually putting the final polish on the superstar pacer in the final days before an Aussie feature.
Christen Me, was a top contender every time he lined up, and won most of the major pacing events in this part of the world during this period with the driving guidance of champion reinsman, Dexter Dunn.
The superstar pacer had come of age as a four-year-old with his first foray to Australia, winning the Hondo Grattan 4YO Stakes and the Group One $200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle, the latter in 1:50.5 (mile).
In NZ, he was the dominant 4YO, beating the older horses in the Canterbury Classic and Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup, as well as cleaning up in the domestic 4yo features, the 4YO Superstars Championship at Addington, the Taylor Mile (1:54.9 mile rate, 1700n) & NZ Messenger at Auckland, and the 4YO Harness Jewels Emerald at Ashburton in 1:51.5 (mile).
At five, Christen Me heralded he had arrived on the Grand Circuit, running third in the 2013 New Zealand Cup, after trailing Fly Like An Eagle, then getting relegated three back when winner Terror To Love took over at the 700m for Ricky May.
However, the NZ Cup was the one race the horse, known around Kentuckiana Lodge as “CC” (derivative of his sire) was unable to win in three attempts.
He was in career best form in 2014, but inexplicably bungled the start, staging a huge recovery from last, improving parked a lap over, taking cover, then finishing only 3.6 lengths fifth behind close relative, champion mare Adore Me, who won in 3:54.6 (3200m).
He missed the 2015 cup, and a year later, from the outside of the front row, settled back and had to work when fifth, when Lazarus destroyed his rivals by 10 lengths in a record 3:53.1 (3200m) in 2016.
Apart from being luckless in the NZ Cup, Christen Me tasted sweet success by winning back-to-back Australasian Grand Circuits in 2014-15.
In 2014, he won the $A400,000 2014 A G Hunter Cup (beating Carribean Blaster and Gold Ace, in a 1:59.2 rate, 3280m), the Maurice Holmes Vase, the $184,000 Woodlands NZ Free-For-All (leading up and beating Adore Me, Franco Nelson and Terror To Love in a 1:54,1 rate (1950m),and the big one, the $750,000 SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile at Menangle in 1:49.1 (defeating Beautide, Guaranteed and Terror To Love).
The following year, Christen Me added the $A400,000 Victoria Cup (beating Lennytheshark and Adore Me in a 1:55 rate, 2240m), the Bendigo Cup, the $250,000 Auckland Cup (beating Adore Me in a brilliant 3:13.8, 1:55.5 mile rate, 2700m) , and both the Gordon Roxburgh Free For-All and Easter Cup, at Addington.
In 2016, he won four races each in NZ and Australia, but in 2017, after five seconds in eight starts, the decision was made by his NZ owners to allow Christen Me the chance to extend his race career with the use of bleeding agent Lasix in North America.
While difficult to part with such a special horse, Cran knew Christen Me would get the best care and attention in North America.
“Being a gelding, what else do you do with him?” was the question Cran kept asking himself.
“We can give him a pat and a carrot and put him in retirement here in a back paddock. He can eat grass and get fat for the next 20 years, or he can go up there and stay in trim and continue racing for a bit longer.”
Cran drew a comparison with All Black great Dan Carter, who has continued playing rugby in France, post his great All Black career.
Christen Me, then eight, had not been over-raced starting 68 times, winning 32 times in Australasia (including 10 Group One victories) for $2.47 million in stakes.
“He’s like a spring chicken. He is working great and looking fantastic.”
Christen Me was initially sold to major Boston owner Richard Poilluci in March, 2017, and joined the Jim King jun. stable.
Two months later, he won his USA debut in a $17,500 pace at Harrah’s Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1:51, in the hands of top US driver, Tim Tetrick.
He won four of his last five North American starts in 2017, including a fast 1:49.4 (10ths) win on the half-mile track af Dover Downs, Delaware, and a 1:50 mile at the Meadowlands in December, to top $US100,000 in earnings in his first seven months in the USA.
In mid-2018, after one win (1:50.8 at Harrahs Philadelphia in May) and five placings in 16 starts for $58,050, Christen Me was released by Mr Poilucci to join the Lance Hudson stable in New Jersey in July, 2018.
He won second-up at 10 at Yonkers, New York, in a $23,000 pace for Hudson, adding $135,000 to his USA earnings in 2018.
Despite turning 11 in 2019, Christen Me had managed four further wins, eight seconds and a third in 25 starts by October 1, 2019, for $US96,055, including a 1:52.6 (10ths) win on the half-mile track at Yonkers.
CHRISTEN ME – Career record: 126 starts, 42 wins, 44 placings, combined international earnings, $2,614,481.
Despite being a Group One “bridesmaid” London Legend won races in all seven seasons he raced earning $456,124 in stakes.
“But if he was five lengths better than he was he would not have finished four times second in Group One races,” Cran said.
“He was a high speed horse but a bridesmaid in the big ones. The two mile (3200m) races didn’t suit him,” he said.
The In the Pocket gelding gave an early taste of his speed winning the G2 2002 International Cargo Express Rising Stars 3YO Championship at Addington in a 1:58.2 rate (1950m) in the hands of Mark Jones.
At four, he was sharp winning the $30,000 (Listed) Pelorus Trust 4YO Classic at Waterlea, Marlborough, in a 1:59 rate for the 2300m.
He then racked up three consecutive G1 seconds in $100,000 races at Auckland.
London Legend chased home Elsu in both the Taylor 4YO Mile at Auckland (won in 1:55) and the NZ Mesenger 4YO Championship, then was second again, this time behind Sly Flyin in the Friday Flash City Of Auckland FFA.
He was also nosed out in the G1 $100,000 Lindauer NZ Free-For-All at Addington on Show Day 2005 behind Howard Bromac, who rated 1:55.2 (2000m), with dual NZ Cup winner Just An Excuse third.
London Legend proved a great money-spinner for owners Jim and Susan Wakefield, also tasting success in Australia holding on narrowly to win the 2006 $A25,000 (Listed) Sky Channel FFA at Moonee Valley.
He was retired two weeks after winning his penultimate race as a 9YO in August 2008.
London Legend is now living out his days away from the racetrack as a leisure riding hack in North Canterbury.
LONDON LEGEND _ Career record: 101s-25w-27p, $456,124