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2006 NZ WELCOME STAKES - Won by Gotta Go Cullen

Sue Martin has never cared much for the limelight. She's not used to it, doesn't like it, and even cringes at the thought of stepping up to a microphone to splutter out a victory speech following any big-race win.

Martin's no stranger to such requirements though, because for years she shared a partnership with Neil Brady on both a professional and personal basis, and during that time the couple won a lot of races with the likes of Franco Ice and Sweet Talking Man. Back them Martin stayed backstage and out of the spotlight when it came to acknowledgement, quite content that she'd played her part behind the scenes. But these days she has got no choice, because things have changed. Brady's no longer in the picture, and Martin part-owns and trains a horse that is going to put her onto the victory dias time and time again. His name is Gotta Go Cullen.

"When Neil went to Australia in 2004, I thought he was just going on another one of his stints," Martin said, remembering when she and Brady parted ways. "But he didn't come back. He probably thought the place would fall apart without him - and that only made me more determined to do it, to succeed." Gotta Go Cullen is ample proof that Martin's certainly doing that. She bought the colt and his dam Sparkling Burgundy from a northern broodmare sale when he was still a foal at foot, and now the son of Christian Cullen has won five of his seven raceday appearances after taking out the $50,000 Group 2 Bromac Lodge NZ Welcome Stakes at Addington last Friday night.

Parked early before being taken to the front by Nicole Thorn, Gotta Go Cullen settled beautifully in the role until Thorn asked him to stretch out inside the last furlong. Fergiemack temporarily looked a threat when he burst from the pack 100 metres out, but Gotta Go Cullen revelled in having a new challenger and pulled clear again by half a length at the line. "It was good to feel him kick again," Thorn said afterwards. "He has been knocking off inside the last fifty metres of his races, because nothing has been sticking with him. He really flattens out when you ask him - like Christian Cullen did when he used to get let down. It's unbelievable being associated with Gotta Go Cullen, because he is just a super, super animal. And not that he isn't already, but he is going to be a very nice horse; I mean, look at him - he's like a three-year-old now," Thorn said.

Gotta Go Cullen had only raced at Cambridge and Alexandra Park prior to last Friday night, meaning little more than a twelve hour round trip from his home in Pakiri Beach, and last week's trek to Christchurch was also Martin's first venture south "on my own." Victory speech included, she was pleased once it was all over. "It's pretty scary coming all that way," she said, highlighting that the time between leaving home and arriving in Christchurch was over 37 hours. I was concerned, because it's a long way for a baby. But he just eats everything, and takes it in his stride. We stayed at Lavros Lodge, which was really good, and on arrival his tail was up and he was prancing around - the guys that shipped him said they had never seen a horse get off the truck looking so good. But I couldn't have done this without the help of Nicole and her fiance Dean (Molander), who have been great," Martin said.

The trip was a good dress rehearsal for when Gotta Go Cullen will return to Christchurch again in May fo the Sires' Stakes Final, and Martin says he will be off to Australia for the Breeders' Crown after that.

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 5Apr06

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