“She’s one in a million,” James Healy says of Loving Gaby with a warmth of affection in his voice usually reserved for a beloved pet. He’s speaking a few days after the Phoenix Thoroughbreds owned filly gained her second Group One success, taking the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley.
You might not be aware of who James is, but if you’ve watched either of ‘Gaby’s’ top tier victories you certainly will have seen him. A foreman for the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace powerhouse team, he led out the daughter of I Am Invincible for both wins before leading the immediate celebrations.
The 24-year-old from Brisbane has been with the filly from the very beginning and the two of them have formed a strong bond. James’ posts on social media, of her more playful, and quite often mischievous side, have attracted plenty of viewings helping develop the dual Group One winner into a fan favourite. He is also perhaps the man who knows the star filly best.
“She’s a gem,” James explains. “She’s got such a personality, she’s very strange, very weird, in a good way, and can be high maintenance, but we understand her and are getting the results.”
They certainly are. A gun two-year-old Loving Gaby sprung to prominence by winning the Group Three Chairman’s Stakes at Caulfield on her debut. She has since run in nine Group One’s, winning twice and placing in five (that’s not even mentioning her win in the Group Three Scarborough Stakes). Any filly that can produce that sort of record is always going to become a bit of a stable favourite, but there is more to this love affair than just results.
“Ability wise she’s still on the way up while personality-wise she’s everyone’s favourite around the stable,” says James and despite speaking on the phone, you can tell he’s smiling. “One minute she’ll love you the next she’ll hate you. As you can see from the videos and photos, she has some funny mannerisms like when she was stealing her stablemate’s food (below). That’s one thing about her you could put as much food as you like in front of her and she’d eat it; she’s a very good ‘doer’.”
“I think she’s popular as people can actually witness all of her traits and personality first hand through videos and photos.” Explains perhaps her biggest fan. “Our social media team do an excellent job as well promoting her and everyone seems to get around her and love her.”
There was plenty to love about her victory in the William Reid around her beloved Moonee Valley. Quickening around the bend and just off the pace she quickly dispatched Newmarket Handicap winner Bivouac before going on to win with a touch in hand sparking more jubilant scenes from the Maher/Eustace camp in attendance.
“It’s an indescribable feeling, it’s what we wake up for in the mornings,” explained James who was given the perfect birthday present when Loving Gaby won the Manikato. “Everyone gets a huge kick out of it. Its why we do it, to celebrate and win those big races with the horses we work with.”
With racing in his blood through his trainer Grandfather, jockey Uncle and owner Dad, James has training ambitions of his own in the future. So what does the man who spends a lot of his time with Gaby feels the future might hold?
“Physically she’s all there, but mentally I still think she has a bit to go,” he says when posed that question. “She’s still well on the up, as tough as nails and would run through brick walls for you. That’s probably the best trait she has, her toughness and her will to win. She’s so adaptable; you could train her for anything.”
The TJ is on the agenda and she’d be mighty hard to beat in that,” he continues before allowing himself to dream by adding. “You never know later in the year the Everest or Golden Eagle could be an option and wishful thinking maybe even a Cox Plate, she’s that good, but we’ll leave that up to the bosses!”
Whatever the road ahead holds in these uncertain times you can keep up to date with Loving Gaby and her progress by following James on Twitter: @JTHealey95.