By Ray Hickson
Giving up is one thing that isn’t in the nature of many racehorse trainers but Nyngan’s Rodney Robb admits the sack was once hanging over Thermosa.
The gelding just didn’t want to co-operate when he was being educated and tested Robb’s patience many a time. Fortunately for Thermosa he could gallop, even if it was reluctantly.
Less than four months after his debut the four-year-old has made his way into the $150,000 WRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Dubbo on Sunday as well as into Robb’s good books.
“When we were breaking him in and getting him going there were plenty of times I shook my head and said we should give up,’’ Robb said.
“He was a terrible horse to get going. He wouldn’t go around the track, the second time we put him out of the barriers he took a left hand turn and nearly wiped five fence posts down.
“Michael Hackett was coming out to ride trackwork for us at the time and he didn’t ride him but he said ‘don’t ever put me on him’.
“But he was such a good strong horse. My son Brett has a lot of experience, he’s broken a lot of horses in, and I said to him ‘I don’t know if he’s worth the trouble’.
“He said ‘he’s the best mover we have so we have to keep going’. He always showed he has natural speed but we didn’t think we would get this far with him.’’
Robb isn’t kidding about how far he’s come – Thermosa won on debut back in October at $51 at Coonabarabran and made it three from four with successive wins at Dubbo in the following months.
Thermosa is one of four runners for Robb in the Qualifier and clearly his best chance of making the Randwick final in April.
The preparation almost went awry when the gelding was beaten as an odds-on favourite at Gunnedah on January 15 but Robb blames himself, and oppressive conditions coupled with travelling poorly from Nyngan, for the shock failure.
He bounced back with a close third behind A Martin Placepick in his first attempt at 1400m at Parkes last week.
“He’s come through it really well. Parkes is a three hour trip home and the next morning I looked in his feed bin and he wouldn’t have left enough to fill the palm of your hand,’’ he said.
“I haven’t given him a lot of work since because it’s been very hot but we have a pool here and a treadmill.
“He’s a fit horse, it’s too late to give him a gallop. If I haven’t got him right now I’ve failed.’’
Thermosa meets A Martin Placepick 2kg better for being beaten in a tight finish but Robb is concerned that drawing one from the outside could cruel his chances.
Thermosa runs third to A Martin Placepick at Parkes on January 31
While apprentice Wendy Peel, who partners stablemate Mango Liston on Sunday, rode the gelding to all three wins to date Robb felt Matthew Cahill’s experience would help the horse run out a strong 1400m.
“It’s going to be a big disadvantage for him,’’ Robb said.
“It depends what happens, Matthew Cahill is a great rider and he should sum it up. He gets paid to ride him and when the gates open he’s in charge.
“The barriers didn’t do us any favours but they all start from a level mark.’’
What of Robb’s other trio – Mango Liston, Huang Zhong and Bells ‘n’ Bows?
They are largely picnic performers and he concedes will require plenty of luck going their way but of them rates the mare Bells ‘n’ Bows as the knockout chance.
“There’s no doubt we earmarked Thermosa for the race 10 weeks ago and the others kept on performing okay,’’ he said.
“I looked at it and the benchmarks were going to be a bit lower because we don’t get the high class horses out here.
“They are eligible for it, you’re not a chance if you’re not in it. Plenty of 33/1 pops win races.’’
First and second from the Dubbo Qualifier earn a spot in the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 6.