BENDIGO hobby trainer Daryn Drust likes to refer to Cooter Cha Cha as his 'best mate'.
But the spiritual bond between trainer and horse didn't exactly start off on the right foot, according to Drust, who was charged with the task of breaking the horse in nearly five years ago.
"I've dealt with some pretty hard horses, breaking them in .... this bloke would buck every day," he said.
"I sent him home to the owner, who bred him, and she sent him back to me to pre-train him for four or five weeks and he knocked me clean out in the round yard.
"The next day (the owner) rang me up and asked me how he was going and I said 'it's been four weeks and I still haven't got a rider on his back'.
"I said, "I don't know who you send him to to train, but I will tell you one thing, book a transport truck for about three days after he lands there because they won't be able to put up with him and they'll send home.
"So then she asked if I would train him .... it was a bit hard to say no.
"It's taken a few preparations, but he's got better. He'll still have a buck every now and then, but it's more cheek these days.
"He likes to let you know he's the boss."
"I sent him home to the owner, who bred him, and she sent him back to me to pre-train him for four or five weeks and he knocked me clean out in the round yard.- Daryn Drust
From rough and tumble beginnings, Drust has developed plenty of affection for the now six-year-old gelding, who returned to the winner's circle at Wodonga on Monday.
It was only the third win of his 28-race career for Cooter Cha Cha, and his first since he saluted at odds of 150-1 at Wangaratta in July last year.
In the meantime, the gelding has developed a bit of a cult following, all due to his name, which is derived from a dance.
Drust, a former farrier and horse-breaker, who combines training with his work as a maintenance officer at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo, believed Cooter Cha Cha could not be more appropriately named.
"When he bucked, he didn't buck like most horses. He could twist and turn in mid-air and still land on his feet," he said.
"That's how his name came about. Everyone remembers the name.
"He's got a bit of a fan base. He's won a couple and there's been some ordinary races that haven't been run to suit, but the name sticks."
Drust acknowledged that Monday's race could not have panned out more perfectly for Cooter Cha Cha, who was back in grade to a benchmark 58, after running in benchmarks 70 and 64s at Sandown and another benchmark 64 at Geelong.
"He needs a strong tempo and if they throw the anchor down out the back it doesn't suit him and he won't run on," he said.
"If they put the pace on it's game-on for him.
"It surprised me a bit on Monday because we've been looking for them to do that. This time I said to our jockey Jason (Baldock), if they get around the back and throw the anchor down again, I don't care if you go four wide, just go around and keep the pressure on - he'll cope.
"Luckily for us it worked out perfectly. He's got a good cruising speed. He won't sprint at the end, but he 'll just keep building and building."
It was an all-Bendigo quinella at Wodonga, with the Nick Smart-trained Docker Pav second behind Cooter Cha Cha in his second run from a lengthy spell.
Drust said Cooter Cha Cha would likely have about three weeks between runs, with the hopes of finding another softish track to suit.
The gelding's win contributed to a mixed three days for Drust, who has trained for roughly 15 years in Bendigo, and has five horses currently in his stable.
His five-year-old gelding Adds Up sustained a fractured knee during an unplaced run at Mildura last Saturday.
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