By Tony Megahey
Young Mudgee trainer Cameron Crockett guarantees unbeaten Nictock is by far the best horse he has trained, and the decision by champion country jockey Greg Ryan to travel to Royal Randwick for one ride, is the strongest push possible.
The TAB $60,000, 1000m Highway Handicap is bristling with short course brilliance at headquarters on AHC June Stakes race day this Saturday.
Eight-time series winner Matthew Dale with hot prospect Clipper, and unbeaten stablemate Il Bandito, and seven- time Highway winner Matthew Dunn with Conniving, typically head the betting markets.
However while Crockett has every respect for their dominance, he is far from intimidated. “I’m under no illusions, great trainers, their records prove it, but I’ve got one that could be real special and Greg thinks the same,” enthused Crockett who won a Highway last season with Moss My Name, and has placed twice recently with listed placegetter Barbass and Artistic Beauty.
“After this horse resumed and was airborne for Greg in a Dubbo Open trial, I said let’s go to that Randwick Highway and Greg didn’t hesitate- didn’t think twice.
“I mean, Greg’s up with the best, he could have had a full-book at any of the regional meetings. I thought with Greg’s normal demands out here, I’d be looking for another jockey but he gave this horse a big wrap after he won on it at Wellington and Bathurst and said there was a stack of upside as a three-year-old.
“Of course this is far stronger opposition, but you can only keep winning. This is a natural progression, and this horse has a big motor and a will to win.”
Dale’s promising Clipper is favourite again after landing a plunge, dominating a TAB Highway at headquarters two weeks ago, following a series win by stablemate Hay Now. Clipper has a weight increase to 56.5kg from 53.5kg after giving Tim Clark his 100th win for the season. Clark has been booked for both of Dale’s runners, with a decision yet to be made.
Meanwhile Cameron and his father Max, who decades ago was foreman for Neville Begg and Les Bridge, have been prolific in the region, and landed several winners at recent Dubbo meetings.