By Greg Prichard
When Les Howarth, the holder of the last available slot for The Kosciuszko, noticed Awesome Pluck was still high up in the betting even though it wasn’t yet in the race he thought that might be the horse for him.
Barely two days later it was his horse, the deal between himself and the connections of the Jenny Graham-trained five-year-old having been completed late on Wednesday.
Howarth had felt no need to rush in and make a decision. He had considered several other contenders without securing a deal and began discussions with Graham after Awesome Pluck had performed well in a barrier trial at Rosehill on Tuesday.
The gelding finished fourth to Arcadia Queen, one of the top chances for The Everest, in an open trial over 1030m.
“Jenny told me the horse went really well and had pulled up fine,” Howarth said.
“I noticed the betting and saw it wasn’t far behind the favourites as a $15 chance even though it hadn’t got a start yet, so that told me something.”
It soon became a matter of whether Howarth and Awesome Pluck’s owner, Dale Miller, could agree on a deal over a prizemoney split and that process didn’t take very long.
“The stable is pretty keen on Awesome Pluck’s chances,” Howarth said.
“I think we’re on a real good horse and we’ll get a real good run for our money.”
Graham said the owner was naturally keen to get the horse into the race through the last available avenue.
“At the end of the day it’s all about being in the race, so everybody’s happy,” she said.
Howarth, 74, said he bought 100 of the $5 tickets in The Kosciuszko slot draw with his son, Ray, at a TAB outlet near where he lives, at Gladesville, and that the pair had since invited three close friends in on the group to experience the thrill as well.
“We’re all going to enjoy it,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to the big day now. It’ll be the first time I’ve been to the races for a while. The last time was the Wagga Gold Cup about 10 years ago.”
Graham now has two runners in the race again – the same as last year’s The Kosciuszko when Awesome Pluck finished third and Victorem fifth on a very heavy track.
Awesome Pluck got into last year’s race even later than he has this year, replacing favourite Care To Think after that horse fell ill in the week of the race.
This year’s The Kosciuszko, carrying $1.3 million in prizemoney, will be run over 1200m at Randwick on TAB Everest day, October 19, and Victorem is the current favourite in TAB fixed odds betting at $4.
Graham said Awesome Pluck wouldn’t have a race start before The Kosciuszko.
“No, he’ll just tick away until he goes to the race now,” she said.
“He’s had two barrier trials, the same as Victorem, and they’ve both had a trip to Sydney for one of those. They’re following the same pattern and I’m really happy with both of them.”
Awesome Pluck runs fourth to Arcadia Queen in a Rosehill trial
Victorem was impressive in winning an open trial over 1030m at Rosehill on Tuesday, piloted by Tommy Berry who will ride the five-year-old gelding in The Kosciuszko.
Graham said she planned to engage a Sydney jockey for Awesome Pluck as well.
“Now that he’s in the race I’ve got to establish which jockeys are already committed and who’s still available and go from there,” she said.
“If Awesome Pluck gets a nice run in the race he’s as competitive as Victorem.
"They just need a bit of luck in running. Awesome Pluck’s run some great races in Brisbane and if he gets the right run he’ll run a great race again. I think with luck in running both horses should run very well.
“Hopefully it’s a dry track and every horse has got its chance.”