‘Knockabout’ owner can reap more success in Inter Dominion 13 December 2023

Self-described knockabout Mick Boots is by far the biggest harness owner in this part of the world, but teaming up with fellow NSW Riverina horseman Jason Grimson has unlocked his feature race success.

Boots, 61, owns “well over 200” horses with 43 different trainers in Australia and New Zealand and has two runners – Swayzee and Nerano – in Saturday night’s Group 1 Inter Dominion pacing final.

Both are trained by Grimson.

“I’ve raced horses for 16 years since and really stepped it up the past few years, but ‘Grimmo’ (Grimson) won the first really big one for me with Betterzippit in The Nullarbor (in Perth) in April,” Boots said.

“Since then, he’s gone on to win the Blacks A Fake and New Zealand Cup for me with Swayzee and now he’s got these two in the Inter Dominion final. It’s been some sort of year.”

It’s a match made in heaven for the Riverina lads with Boots born, raised and still living in Leeton, while Grimson is from Young, but now trains at Menangle.

Inter Dominion history awaits Grimson, who is trying to become the first trainer to win three successive pacing finals with different horses.

He won with Boncel Benjamin on protest at Menangle in 2021 and I Cast No Shadow at Melton last year.

Boots, a retired self-made millionaire, first met Grimson in early 2021 at the Melbourne yearling sales, did some homework on him and sent him a horse to train a few months later.

“I spoke to Peter Birks, a great old-fashioned horseman from West Wyalong. He’s a legend in these parts and he said Grimmo used to hang around as a kid and that he had ‘it’. He could see things in horses most couldn’t,” Boots said.

“I’m sure the great facilities they train from at Menangle help, but Grimmo is a real horseman. I remember early, he said ‘let a horse be a horse, get all that gear of it and start again’.”

Nerano has gone to another level during the Inter Dominion series. Picture: Dan Costello

While Grimson’s deeds with Swayzee have been his greatest yet, Boots is in awe of how he’s not just resurrected the once promising Nerano, but taken him to a new level.

“Nerano was sold to the US, but he did a tendon the next day and I refunded the money as a good bloke would do. The horse had his rehab, went to Grimmo first-up for seven months and bolted in at Menangle. It’s all gone from there.

“He’s really peaked through this series and he’s got a terrific turn of speed.”

Boots’ first Inter Dominion runner was Bundoran, who won a heat in 2021 before finishing ninth in the final for trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull.

He returned and ran ninth at Melton last year.

“The Inter Dominion has so much history behind it, it’s a thrill to be part of it again, especially with two runners,” Boots said.

“I don’t get to the races much, I’m just a knockabout block who prefers to lay low around home, but I’ll be at Albion Park this week.”

Swayzee is $2 favourite and Nerano is $5 third elect, so Boots is well poised to win his first final and give Grimson his third on the trot.

But Boots said Grimson has perhaps his biggest challenge yet to have the pair primed for a clash with hometown hero Leap To Fame.

So, who does Boots lean to?

“I don’t want to sound negative and I hope I’m wrong, but I think both of mine will find it hard to beat Leap To Fame,” he said.

By Adam Hamilton