By Mark Brassel
He's big, raw and still learning, but he's good! Kembla Grange trainer Stephen Hill is quietly confident as he makes the 90-minute journey from his home track to Hawkesbury Racecourse today with untapped four-year-old, Brother in Arms ($17 into $15 on TAB fixed odds).
The gelding has only raced six times for two wins and two thirds, but is a 'work in progress'. Brother in Arms will be chasing a hat-trick when he lines up in this afternoon's $150,000 Provincial Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Hawkesbury.
Left: Brother in Arms (Adrian Layt) returns to scale after scoring at Kembla Grange. Image by - Bradley Photographers
"We had a few issues with him during his first campaign but last time in was the first occasion we'd had him 100-per cent right," Hill said. "He's sound and has had a relatively incident-free campaign."
Brother in Arms was sent out a $31 chance when he resumed on his home course over 1200m last August, but what he did made many sit up and take notice. The horse was well back and in a seemingly hopeless position when he sprouted wings and flew home to score by more than a length.
A few weeks later it was a carbon copy - although the $2.10 favourite this time - with Brother in Arms powering home from ninth at the turn to score another devastating win over 1400m there.
"He's a very big horse with a giant stride on him," Hill explained. "It does take him a while to get balanced but once he does, he really motors to the line. The further he goes the better he'll be.
"The 1400m will be suitable on Thursday and given the right run, he is ready to win. We're hoping he's good enough to figure prominently and get into the Provincial Championships Final."
Brother in Arms has not raced since his Kembla win last September but dusted off the cobwebs with a second (beaten seven lengths) to former Kiwi galloper Ugo Foscolo in a Warwick Farm barrier trial (1200m) on 20 February. Ugo Foscolo is no slouch, having won five of his only six starts including the Group 1 NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.
"Our bloke ran a very good trial and did all we expected of him. He was beaten a fair way but obviously the winner is pretty good and our horse beat the rest of them comfortably."
Brother in Arms is by High Chaparral from Tahni Girl, a dual Stakes-winner and at one stage one of the early favourites for the 2004 Golden Slipper. "Dean (Fleming) is a good mate of mine and he bred and owns the horse."
Adrian Layt has ridden Brother in Arms twice for two wins and will again partner Brother in Arms as he strives to maintain his unbeaten run on the gelding.