By Julieanne Horsman at Murrumbidgee Turf Club
Training the favourite for any major race comes with pressure and Scott Spackman was certainly feeling it in the lead up to today’s Southern Districts Country Championships Qualifier at Wagga. O’ So Hazy was well supported since the markets opened earlier in the week but Spackman dealt with it the best way he knows how to – doing his job.
“I’ve just been focusing on my horses this week,” Spackman said. “I went to Carathool yesterday and that took my mind off it a bit but today my stomach was in knots.”
Spackman had to wait until after the horses crossed the line for any relief with less than a head separating first and second and another nine horses all finishing within three lengths. When O’ So Hazy’s number flashed up on the results board, Spackman became the first Wagga trainer to win a Country Championships Qualifier.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “For us battling trainers to go round for $150k is pretty bloody awesome.”
Regular jockey Brooke Sweeney settled O’ So Hazy on the fence in second position behind Fermanagh Lad. Leading into the race there were concerns O’ So Hazy may not run out the 1400m and the tactics reflected that.
“I said to Brooke there’s going to be plenty of speed on,” Spackman said. “I told her to count to ten before you push the button because we had to get the 1400m. She is a known 1200m horse but she is very tough.”
Sweeney popped the question at the 400m mark and O’ So Hazy began eating up the ground.
“She jumped quite cleanly today and put herself right into the race in the box seat,” Sweeney said. “She relaxed beautifully and wasn’t overracing, even with the speed on. When I came to the top of the straight I peeled her out. I thought I might have gone too early but she just kept sticking her nose out when it counted. I was so proud of her. Every time I asked her to keep kicking she just found something extra.”
“It was a 10/10 ride,” Spackman said. “She listened to me, she did everything I asked and I couldn’t want any more.”
Today’s Country Championships win is the biggest of Brooke Sweeney’s career to date. Not bad for a 23-year-old who only came out of her apprenticeship at Christmas time.
“Scott has brought her here in such great condition and I am so grateful for the opportunity,” Sweeney said. “When I first started riding her she was pretty fresh and overraced but she is getting more racing experience under her belt and is relaxing so much better. Scott rides her in work and I am the lucky to be jockey on race day.”
Sweeney has now ridden O’ So Hazy five times for four wins and a third place at Canterbury and Spackman will reward her with the coveted ride in the $500,000 Country Championships at Royal Randwick on Saturday, 7th April. It will be her first ride at the premier Sydney track.
“I’ve also got to thank Mathew Cahill who rode her in her first start, Rebekah Prest did a lot of work on her early,” Spackman said. “Thanks also to the MTC for letting us use the course proper for gallops this week.”
Spackman is yet to decide whether to run O’ So Hazy again before the final.
“I might send her to the paddock, give her a couple of weeks off,” he said. “We’ve got five weeks until the final. I will see how she pulls up and we will go from there.”
Runner-up Bennelong Dancer has also booked a trip to Royal Randwick for Albury trainer Graham Hulm. Today’s qualifiers join Victorem, Awesome Pluck, Kopi Luwak, Pumpkin Pie, Cosmologist and Noel’s Gift with guaranteed places in the final. The Northern Rivers heat will be held in Grafton next Sunday.