Redzel taking loved ones on the ride of John’s life

October 19 will always be a special date for Patricia Di Marco. A sad day.

Four years ago, Di Marco lost her husband, John, on that date after a long battle with illness. But his love and legacy races on with Redzel – the dream horse that he never really got to enjoy.

When the dual winner of The Everest steps on to Randwick to attempt a three-peat next Saturday, October 19, Di Marco will be surrounded by her girls, Katrina, Lauren and Elisa, and John’s best mate, Brad Playford, who shares in the ownership.

The inaugural Everest was almost two years to the day since John died.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that Redzel is John’s lasting gift.

“When we heard the date this year we went, ‘Oh my god, that is the day John died’,” Di Marco says. “It is very bittersweet.

“I’m lucky the kids have always been with me. It has always been hard, but that makes it easier.

“All we have done on Everest day is cry and say, ‘He has done it for John’.

“They say dad is up there helping us out because he always said Redzel was going to be our superannuation cheque.”

Di Marco owns a share in Redzel because of John’s love of horse racing. In his final days, Redzel was the interest he needed.

“John was always into horse racing and we had horses in the past,” Di Marco says. “Some were good and some were not so good, as happens in horse racing.

“John was extremely ill. He had cardiomyopathy. One of the things we liked to do was watch the races on Saturdays.

“He was watching the news one night and this horse came through and he saw it and said how about we get a horse.

“I shook my head and thought, ‘Oh lord’. We had horses before, but he wanted another one.

“It gave him such an interest and a desire to watch and communicate with people. It was the best thing for him.”

The Di Marcos bought a son of Snitzel out of Millrich and then, a week or so later, John took a call from a racing mate.

“Brad rang him when he had just seen Redzel,” Di Marco recalls. “He said, ‘I just saw this lovely horse at Muskoka Farm and I’m thinking of buying into it’.

As fate would have it, Brad was looking at the same Snitzel-Millrich colt John had just bought into.

“John told Brad, ‘I have just bought five per cent’ and Brad went and bought the other five per cent.

“It was perfect.

“Brad has been a lifesaver for me because, realistically, I couldn’t go into Randwick without him.

“It had such a dramatic effect on me, going to the races, because it was what John and I did.  It was never me going to the races by myself.  Brad was there for me. He always waits for me and takes me in and takes me upstairs; makes me feel comfortable.”

John lived to see Redzel win his first start. By the time he died in 2015, it was the sprinter’s only win in five starts. But he could see the potential.

“He was here for the first one,” Di Marco says. “He always had such hope for the horse and said, ‘This horse has got such talent’ to me.

“He kept saying to me, ‘They should just let the horse run. He doesn’t want to be held back he just wants to run’.”

There was no way Di Marco was going to let go of Redzel after losing her husband. They shared a dream that has become reality.  Racing has been a way for the family to stay together.

“Once John passed away, prior to Redzel winning the Everest, the kids started coming with me to races because that was dad,” Di Marco says. “It was his love, so we just kept it going.

“We love this horse, of course, but it is more about him.

“We keep saying John is up in heaven with the persuader making it win.”

The first real sign that Redzel was the horse John thought he was came a year after his death at the Melbourne Cup carnival when he won over 1000m.

“He would have loved that,” Di Marco says. “He would have loved all of this.”

Redzel had found his feet and the free-running sprinter added a group 1 in the Doomben 10,000.

Then The Everest was created. Suddenly John’s superannuation dream for his family could be real.

Redzel ran his way into the first Everest with a couple of wins in 2017. He was the star of the inaugural Everest day at Randwick on October 14, 2017. Di Marco and her kids were there with Playford cheering him on.

“John couldn’t have imagined this, but it was like he knew it was coming,” Di Marco says. “Every time he goes across the line, there are tears of joy and sadness.

“It is pure elation. Then we just all cry. Bradley cries. I cry. The girls cry. The boy [Lauren’s husband Troy Graham] cries. We just all cry.

“It is like, ‘Oh my god he’s done it’.

“Then there is sadness, because this was John’s dream. He would have been over the moon to see this horse doing this.

“But it is like he is still with us.”

Redzel repeated the feat 12 months later and has given the Di Marcos an extended family with his other owners. They have all had dreams and heartache and been brought together by the winner of $15 million in prizemoney.

“We have built up this great camaraderie with the other owners; we are a bit of a family,” Di Marco says.

“We don’t ring each other up all the time, but on race day day we get together and enjoy it and share each other’s company and share our stories.”

Di Marco knows Redzel has done what John would have wanted.

“He hasn’t changed my life,” she says. “The money is not enough to change my life, but it has made life very comfortable. It has made my life easy and the kids’ lives easier.

“I think John would have liked that.”
By Chris Roots
Sydney Morning Herald