By Ray Hickson
South Coast trainer Terry Robinson says he’s been one of the lucky ones, so far, in the bushfire crisis that continues to threaten the area and is disrupting racing.
As far as his perennial Highway competitor Zardoro and Country Championships hopeful Lady Demi are concerned their preparations for Saturday's TAB Highway (1200m) at Randwick have only been marginally affected.
With uncertainty over racing in the region while the fire threat remains, causing meetings to be abandoned and the poor air quality, Robinson said he feels for those trainers whose lives, and horses, have been severely impacted.
“It’s going to be a bit hard, I don’t know where we are heading,’’ he said.
“We’ll have to wait and see what happens, it’s not over yet. We’re definitely feeling the effects of it.
“It’s been a hectic time for everyone and not a pleasant time. It’s a lot harder with the smoke around but we’re not as bad as others.’’
Robinson is located about 15km from Nowra and said the fire zone hasn’t come close enough for him to consider relocation so has been able to continue somewhat normally.
However, with many racetracks closed in the area he said Zardoro and Lady Demi did miss a planned jump out but he was able to give them a strong gallop on Monday.
“We’ve been pretty lucky really,’’ he said.
“It would have been nice to have that jump out, but the way things are with the weather and the fires we’ve still got enough work into them.’’
Zardoro will be contesting his 14th consecutive Highway on Saturday, he’s closing in on Tiger By The Tale’s record of 16, and as frustrated as Robinson is that the horse hasn’t won more than two of them he’s been a great money spinner for his owners.
The six-year-old has earned more money than any horse since Highways were introduced with $142,250 from his 13 starts which have realised the two wins and six placings.
His first Highway was just over a year ago, on January 5, and he ran third behind La Scopa on the Kensington track and both wins have come at Rosehill in February and June.
“He should have won a couple before this, he was terribly unlucky a couple of times,’’ Robinson said.
“He doesn’t help himself sometimes because he does get back and he can over race.
“But he’s earned some good prizemoney in these races, you can’t win that in the country, so he’s doing a good job.’’
It was six weeks between runs when Zardoro ran seventh, beaten 1.6 lengths, to Moore Euros at his first try over 1000m in more than a year, where he clocked 33.42 for a race best last 600m (Punter's Intelligence), and he'll drop 3.5kg after Chris Williams' claim.
Robinson, who has won 12 Highways to be the fourth winningest trainer behind Matthew Dunn, Danny Williams and Matthew Dale, said the extra 200m is in his favour though he’s not sure whether barrier six helps him a great deal.
Zardoro's latest Highway appearance at Randwick on December 14
“He had a gap in between runs and he probably did a bit too good on me so he will improve on that effort,’’ he said.
“He can race a bit handier, I’d like to see him in the first half but it depends on the pace.
“The way he’s been racing he’s certainly up to a midweeker and maybe he could get to a Saturday but we’ll work that out after he hopefully wins another one.’’
Lady Demi begins her Country Championships campaign in her sixth successive Highway having not raced since being beaten a lip by Feel The Knight at Randwick on Everest Day.
The South East Qualifier is held at Nowra on February 16 and Robinson is adamant she’s going to get better once she steps into the 1400-mile range.
“Her biggest problem early days was over racing and now she seems to be a much better racehorse,’’ he said.
“She’s bred to get a lot further than what she has at this stage, I think she looks more like a miler.
“She’s drawn wide so she will probably get back but I really thought she was a Championships horse. The heat is down here this year so when we get up around the 1400m it’ll be nice.’’