By Ray Hickson
If comeback galloper Mr Hussill is to be a realistic chance in the $1.3m The Kosciuszko in the spring trainer Cameron Crockett says he’ll need to prove himself better than Highway grade.
The Scone trainer regards the rising six-year-old as having the talent to be an elite country performer. So after making a successful return from almost two years off the scene he sees every reason to aim high and if that means a Kosciuszko berth so be it.
“We all know horses hit their benchmark at some stage so if you potter through the lower grades and waste those wins on average races you can’t get those wins back,’’ Crockett said.
“If it doesn’t work out you can always come back in grade but I think you’ve got to have a shot first.
“I’ve always been one to believe you let the horses do the talking. If you’re going to go (to the Kosciuszko) you want your horse to put his hand up on the racetrack.
“All publicity helps to put them on the radar but I don’t want to go down there with a horse that’s been well publicised, I want to go there with a horse that got in on his merits.”
Mr Hussill is a $51 chance in TAB’s all-in Kosciuszko market ahead of his attempt for back-to-back TAB Highway (1200m) wins at Randwick on Saturday.
It was next week a year ago that last year’s Kosciuszko champ It’s Me made her debut before winning successive Highways, winning her way into the $1.3m feature on TAB Everest day and taking home the trophy.
Crockett sees It’s Me as an exception rather than the rule and says Mr Hussill, a winner of three of his four starts, shouldn't warrant selection, in his eyes, on Highway form alone.
“You do need to step up a lot higher than Highway grade but she was a rarity,’’ he said.
“When you look at her Highway runs she showed she was far superior to Highways, she’s well above country grade, but you don’t want to be failing in a Highway that’s for sure.
“I can’t take a good horse like him back to country grade and have him not eligible for Highways or win your six races and be not eligible for Country Championships.
“I’d rather poke around in a few higher grade races and still be eligible for those sort of races. If we aim for the Highways, aim for things a bit tougher we can always come back next year as a Class 5 horse or below.”
Mr Hussill came through his impressive first-up win to Crockett’s liking so he’s happy to send him around again just two weeks later but he regards Saturday’s race as a much harder assignment.
Kerrin McEvoy will ride the gelding, $5 with TAB on Thursday, once again and the trainer hopes the race pans out perfectly once again.
“The Canberra horses have got runs and 90 per cent of the time their form is a bit stronger,’’ he said.
“My one concern is from barrier two if there’s speed on he might get further back and he’d have to ride for luck. If he doesn’t have that early dash after running two weeks ago he might get further out of his ground.”
"I was worried about barrier one the other day if we got back but as it turned out inside barriers were an advantage with the headwind blowing across the track."
Mr Hussill wins at Randwick on July 17
Stablemate Commando Hunt shouldn’t be forgotten in the Highway picture as he resumes on the back of an unorthodox preparation that has included two trials in the space of three days.
That wasn’t Crockett’s plan, the horse was forced to trial again after he blew the start in a Dubbo heat on July 16 so he went around two days later at Scone to the stewards’ liking.
“He’s been quite frustrating because he’s got a lot of ability,’’ Crockett said.
“I’d say he has as much ability as Mr Hussill but the problem with him is he’s got a few tricks and it’s hard to get him to bounce into a position in a race where he can win.”
The three-year-old has won two of his seven starts, his last appearance was a fast-finishing fourth behind Blue Missile in a Rosehill Highway in February.
“He should have won the first Highway he ran in but he got too far out of his ground, he can be field shy and his race brain can let him down,’’ he said.
“Mr Hussill has had a long list of things that could stop him but his mind has helped him overcome it.”