If the Stan and Karen Watson five kilometre handicap was a horse race the whimsical Irishman Sven O’Flynn would have started at odds of 100-1.
Prince of Penzance proved that 100-1 outsiders do win races, even Melbourne Cups, but it’s fair to say that even the Prince before his big race had better form on the board than the unpredictable O’Flynn.
In seven starts with the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club this season, O’Flynn’s form was inglorious to say the least; eleventh, last, thirteenth, then an improving seventh and eighth, before a miserable sixteenth and an ignominious last at his most recent start when he was lucky to finish before dark.
So how did he manage to turn that form around in the month since his club-mates had seen anything of him?
Was it something he had for breakfast? He’d thrived before, winning a race on an overload of bacon and eggs and porridge, but this time it was “coffee and a cigarette.”
Clearly the handicaps favoured him. It had been two years since the forty-nine year old had won a race, a three kilometre scamper through the Ironbarks, but no one gave him any hope last Saturday.
He rolled up at the start, his car seized up. It had run out of oil. He began the race with an ungainly shuffle, in board shorts and a jumper of some description tied around his waist.
With 500 metres to run he’d beaten off fellow front-markers, Naomi Hunter, Gary Saunders and Naomi Hunter and that was a surprise in itself, but Matilda Iglesias – no fitter runner in the club – was closing fast and seemed certain to catch him.
O’Flynn was “running scared”, five, six, seven looks behind in fear of the chasers.
The unlikely leader got desperate, threw off his jumper somewhere into the bushes and found another gear – a sort of stumbling kind of sprint that enabled him to stagger across the line just two seconds ahead of Iglesias in the season’s biggest upset.
Iglesias trains most days, but during the week O’Flynn hadn’t quickened a step by more than a metre.
It goes to show that anyone can win a handicap race (Iglesias had given him more than eight minutes start), even 100-1 outsiders.
Tom Urquhart claimed his maiden victory in the one kilometre Sub-Junior race beating the determined chasers, Olivia Hunter and Tex Tracey.
The club travels to Rupanyup (Saturday) for the eight kilometre Tyler’s Hardware and Rural Supply Handicap. Fun runners are welcome to meet at the football oval.