IN HORSE racing as much as anything, things don't always go as planned.
But that's not always a bad thing.
Take for example the four-year-old galloper Play On Words.
Had Bendigo trainer Rod Symons' original plan come to fruition, the gelded son of Poet's Vice and his mare Kusha would have spent his three-year-old season racing in Darwin.
But the closest Play On Words ever came to the Northern Territory was while running a disappointing sixth at Mildura on April 26 this year.
Fast forward six months - and after nine career starts for a mere two placings - the Symons-trained horse is on a roll following two straight wins.
Play On Words made it back-to-back wins with an emphatic 3.5-length victory in a benchmark 58 at Donald last Sunday.
And in slick time, a mere .7 seconds over the course record for 1350m.
It followed his maiden win by five-lengths at Tatura on September 18.
With the potential of better race wins ahead, Symons is counting his blessings that he managed to hold on to Play On Words.
"I actually offered him to an ex-apprentice (jockey) Phillip Cole, who is a leading trainer up in Darwin," he said.
"I thought he'd be a nice horse for him up there - he's sound, he's strong and he runs and he wants to keep running, but Phillip thought he didn't have enough quality for one of those good three-year-old races up in Darwin.
"It's taken a while for him to hit his straps and now those races are a bit late for him. But it's worked out.
"We haven't really done that much different with him and it seems he has just hit his straps with a bit more maturity.
"That and probably the firmer tracks - he seems to like those. We've probably ran him in a few tracks with a bit of give in them and he didn't finish off as well as he could have.
"They were only .7 of a second outside the track record in that race (on Sunday), so that was quite an achievement for a 58-rated race."
Adding to the excitement, Symons nearly produced the quinella in the race, with Perfect War flashing home for third.
Undergoing a renaissance of her own following a 150-1 win at Swan Hill last month, the five-year-old mare hit the line strongly after being slow to start and having trailed her stable-mate by 14 lengths at the 800m.
"She went via the cape," Symons said about Perfect War.
"But it was nice to see her follow up that 150-1 win with a nice performance."
While it's a big step-up, Symons is contemplating a trip to Moonee valley for a Friday night benchmark 64 with Play On Words.
"We'll see if we can sneak around there with a three kilo claim with Tatum Bull back on board," he said.
"I know it was only a (benchmark) 58, but they ran a very smart time and he's winning by big margins.
"It's been a real turnaround in the horse's career.
Another potential option for the four-year-old is another assignment up in grade on Bendigo Cup day, a meeting where Symons is always keen to have a runner entered.
"He'd be running out of his class again at Bendigo if I ran him there, but he would be well down in weight again," he said.
"But with a horse in form - (I'm reminded of) the old Tommy Smith adage - put them in while they've got no weight on their back in a good race and you might win a race or two.
"There's a 1400m .... it will be tough, but we might throw him in and see how he goes," he said.
Play On Words is the sixth of seven foals for Symons' mare Kusha to race and her sixth race winner.
But despite her impressive strike rate, Kusha is still to produce a city winner.
Symons hopes Play On Words might be the one to buck that trend.
"They've all had quite bit of form around Melbourne and have placed there, but they've never won," he said.
"She's a mare I bought in foal a few years ago.
"We've got a Magnus yearling that is locally syndicated and it would be nice for her family to kick a goal in Melbourne.
"She is due to foal again down at Brian McKnight's property at Oakford Farm (in Maldon) by a Breeders Cup winner Vino Rosso, so we've upped the ante with her.
"She's done a good job - all her foals have been winners bar one and have won multiple races."
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