September 7, 2020 Michael Court
GEMMA Hewitt probably lost count of the number of times she said ‘goodbye’ to four-year-old gelding Kash Us Back.
Frankly, the vet treating Gemma’s pacer told her there was little, if any, chance that this pacer would even survive . . . let alone race.
And actually winning a race or two was probably the last thing on Gemma’s mind as she covered many kilometres between Bathurst and the vet’s practice at Orange where her horse was being treated.
So there were tears of joy and hugs all around and Gemma admitted she was overwhelmed by the number of well-wishers who contacted her after she won her first race, at her first drive, when successful at Bathurst with Kash Us Back last week.
Indeed it had reached the stage where Gemma was reluctant to check her mobile phone as there were literally hundreds of messages of congratulations after she won her first race – and later that night made it a double when she also scored on Lady Swiss for her father Bernie, on a night that she will one day be telling her grandchildren about.
And although it took a few days to wipe the smile from her face, it was Kash Us Back that deserved plenty of the credit, according to Gemma.
“He got really sick as an early two-year-old and we took him to the vet in Orange and the options were to put him down or to try and save him,” she said.
“It was going to cost a bit and the vet said he only had about a 20 per cent chance of surviving.
“By the time I got him to Orange he had had lost the blood supply around his body, his mouth had gone dry and the vet was really worried that he would get laminitis. – and that would be the end of him.
“I said I just couldn’t give up on him.
“The fact he was so sick I just knew I had to forget about the cost and not give up on him.
“When we got there the vet asked me to hang around and help and I went into Orange to get some ice and help out where I could.
“He didn’t think he’d survive the night . . . but I just couldn’t walk away.”
Hewitt explained that a nervous nine days followed.
“At one stage he’d be good – and then he’d go bad again . . . I tell you; it was a real roller coaster.
“Even when he was released and we brought him home it was a long road back.
“And the vet bill, well it really got a bit out of hand.
“His stable name was Kash but we decided on Kash Us Back because he cost us so much – and we were hoping that one day he’d give us some back.
“Now he’s as sound as a bell . . . and he just loves racing. He could go around every week.
‘That was win No 13 and every time I see the vet he admits some horses can just prove you wrong – and he was one of those.
“He’s such a special horse to us – and that made that win even more special.”
Hewitt admitted when Kash Us Back won his first $22,000 she ordered a float and put his name on it.
So was there any advice from her champion horseman-cum-father Bernie before the race?
“Dad and I sat down before the race and we were both able to read the races pretty well,” she said.
“I did expect to get crossed and sometimes you can be lucky and you get a passage and sometimes you just have to make your own luck.”
Gemma says her mother, Cathy, usually stayed at home and does the hard yakka but Gemma made sure she was there for the night too.
“She’s been my No 1 supporter – so it was great that she was there,” she said.
“They have given me so much support to get out there and have a go
“I didn’t really expect a night like that – it was just a dream come true.
“I was three fence with Kash Us Back and I could tell the one in front of me wasn’t going anywhere and I was busting for a run.
“I got one off and then one came back in my face. I thought ‘what have I done’ as I was getting dragged back to nearly last.
“Then I got a nice split up the straight and we managed to win.
“I watched the replay and realized that had I stayed there I wouldn’t have got a run but I still was thinking to myself that I might have stuffed it up.”
Gemma said she had no lofty plans before or after her night of nights and all she wanted to do was have a bit of fun.
“Dad has a nice team and I love driving his horses,” she said.
“I’ve had so much support and I’ll take it as it comes and we’ll just see how it goes.”
Gemma trains five of her own and works for Bernie, who has 35-40 in work – so it is a busy day.
She hopes to return to her ‘other’ calling disability care – one day.
But for the moment, the horses come first.
“Sometimes it’s great to get a reality check and I miss it and will go back to disability care – and they were all so supportive of me too,” she said.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize I had so many friends.”
Gemma was also thrilled to make it a double with Lady Swiss.
“She does everything right and tries hard every week and is pretty consistent.
“She just needs a few things to go her way and she will always be there,” she said.
“Kash Us Back will be in a tough grade now.
“I don’t think I’ll go to Menangle anytime soon but am seriously thinking about a trip to Brisbane at the end of the year.
“I’ll wait til the Breeders Challenge is over and then might plan a little trip up north.
“Dad has 30 yearlings being broken in and I don’t know where we’ll put them all, but it’s a pretty busy time.
“There’s a couple of those Q-bred as well.”
And as for her driving career.
“Maybe I should give it away now,” she joked.
“After all, it can only get worse from here.”