By Ray Hickson
Sarah Murray-Leslie may well feel like one woman taking on an army but she’s excited at the prospect of Salesman tackling Saturday’s $150,000 SERA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Goulburn.
All the attention, and pressure, is going to be on Danny Williams and his huge team, including hot favourite Don’t Give A Damn, but for Murray-Leslie it’s more than worth a “throw of the dice’’.
Williams will have more runners in the Qualifier than Murray-Leslie trains in total but she says racing is a great leveller and would be beside herself if Salesman can qualify for the final at Randwick.
“You should never be afraid of one horse, of course a horse like Winx is a completely different story, and that’s how I feel,’’ she said.
“Whenever I turn up to a race I’m there to win it. You don’t know what’s going to happen, there’s 16 horses in there.
“This race is massive. If you get into the final it is a $500,000 race and that’s massive to me and a lot of country trainers. So we’re in it and we are throwing the dice.’’
Salesman was set for the Qualifier when he won over a mile at Goulburn back on December 14 at his 18th start but his lead-up run to Saturday’s race was far from ideal.
The four-year-old ventured to Hawkesbury on February 13 and failed to beat a horse home in an 1100m dash that he found way too slick.
But, then again, Murray-Leslie said the gelding has a streak of Jekyll and Hyde about him.
“He’s such a fickle animal. He still looks like a big baby in his racing style,’’ she said.
“When he won his 1600m race at Goulburn he never shirked it, he was great. But you never really know with this horse what you’re going to get.
“I was disappointed with his run at Hawkesbury, there was no explanation, I knew they were faster than him but I wanted to sharpen him up.
“In the positive he’s had seven goes at Goulburn and the furthest he’s been off is fourth.’’
Murray-Leslie has been based at Exeter, about an hour from Goulburn, for the past five years having previously trained in Bathurst but she said racing was not something she was born into – “mum wouldn’t let me touch a horse’’.
She bred Salesman and shares in the ownership with husband Ash Goulder, who is a farrier, as well as some family and friends.
Robbie Brewer has been engaged to ride the gelding on Saturday and she’ll have plenty of advice for the jockey when he’s legged on board - no doubt some of that advice will be to not be intimiated by Don't Give A Damn's presence.
“My horse is peculiar, he’s not real smart, but I want him to try and push himself,’’ she said.
“I don’t know whether he has the will but it’s the style of beast he is. You can’t interfere with the horse midrace, let him do his thing, then be real bossy.
“They are going to hammer in this heat and he’s going to have to be close to be in it. He’s not going to get past that good horse otherwise.
“My jockey has to have the mindset that it can be beaten.’’