Darin Forde will swap his shearing piece for a suit on Saturday as he gets set to experience one of his biggest days in racing. The world-class shearer shares in the ownership of Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) contender The Chosen One and the proud Southlander will be on course to cheer home the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained runner.
It is not the first time Forde has experienced competition at elite level, with the 54-year-old having competed at the top echelon of shearing for more than three decades. He is a four-time McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown National Champion and a former world record holder, shearing 720 sheep in nine hours in 2007. Forde now runs a shearing contracting business from his Lorneville base, which he operates with his wife, Julie.
With The Chosen One’s victory in the Group 3 Packer Plate (2000m) and eye-catching fourth-placing in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in Sydney earlier this year, Forde decided he wanted to be trackside to support his horse during his Melbourne spring campaign.
Instead of flying over for each run, Forde thought it would be wise to utilise his extensive contacts in Victoria and base himself in the Garden State where he could shear during the week and cheer on his pride and joy on the weekend. “I decided to come over because the horse had been going so well,” he said. “I just thought instead of travelling back and forth, I might as well come over and do a few days’ work in-between. “I have done three weeks here now. In the first race he was in (Group 2 Feehan Stakes, 1600m), where he ran fifth, we flew over and then flew home. After the next race I just stayed over here. “I’m currently not far from Inverleigh, which is about 40km out of Geelong. I’m shearing about four-and-a-half to five days a week and then I head down to Melbourne and support the horse.”
While there is no let-up during the week, with Forde often shearing more than 250 merinos per day, he savours the chance to cheer on the Savabeel four-year-old in the big smoke. Forde’s dedication paid dividends at Caulfield last start where The Chosen One took out the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m), securing his ticket for the Caulfield Cup. “It was a great win,” he said. “He had a fourth-placing and a win up in Sydney in autumn, and we knew then we had something special. Things have just rolled on from there.”
Forde is riding the crest of a wave with The Chosen One and admits he has been very fortunate being involved with a high quality horse so early on as an owner. “I haven’t been in racing that long, it’s only been in the last three years,” he said. “But my father was a horse trainer years ago and quite a bit of my family have been involved with horses over the years. “He’s only my second horse, which is amazing. I couldn’t be happier.”
Forde is looking forward to Saturday and said he experiences a similar thrill when watching his horse race in a Group 1 as he does when competing in a shearing competition. “You still get the same sort of buzz,” he said. “You can’t control what a horse does sometimes whereas if I make a mistake in a shearing competition, there is only me to blame. “Being a shareholder, you have just got to trust your trainers to do the business.”
While Forde has been in Victoria, his wife Julie has been operating their shearing business at home, and he is looking forward to her joining in the excitement this weekend. “My wife is back home looking after the shearing run and she is going to join me this weekend for the race,” he said. “Julie is going to be more excited than me, it’s pretty much got us both hooked. “It’s a dream to get a horse in a race like that. Even the other day we were on our nerves the entire time until the race (Herbert Power) was over and I suspect it is going to be the same this weekend. There is a lot at stake.”
Forde is looking to remain in Victoria for a couple more weeks and is daring to dream of a possible Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) berth, with The Chosen One currently sitting 35th in order of entry for the great race. “You just don’t know, things are going pretty well at the moment,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind seeing the Melbourne Cup and then come home, we’ll just play it by ear.”
Forde won’t be the only member of the 19-strong syndicate at Caulfield on Saturday, with a strong contingent expected for the big occasion, including Ray Dennis, who bred the entire with brothers Tony, Joe and Martin. The siblings have experienced some great moments in racing, and although a Caulfield Cup has eluded them, they have come close to winning it as breeders before.
Our Sophia, who the brothers bred with Brian Anderton, Jim Murray and the White brothers, finished second and third in the 1985 and 1986 editions of the race respectively, while The Phantom recorded a third-placing in the 1989 Caulfield Cup. “When you have a horse racing in a A$5 million Caulfield Cup, that doesn’t happen very often,” Ray Dennis said. “Breeding horses that race around those big races, it’s a tremendous thrill. “We have bred horses that have run in it and have placed in it, but never owned one.”
That could all change on Saturday when The Chosen One attempts to secure a slice of history for his connections.