By Ray Hickson
Trust is a huge part of any racing stable and when it comes to She Will Reign, and the rest of his team, there’s nobody trainer Gary Portelli trusts more than his foreman Greg Miles.
Though most know him as “Cracka”.
Miles has known Portelli for decades, he’s been a family friend going back to the days when Portelli was training in Orange.
He trained a small team himself at Bathurst until about 20 years ago and has worked for some of the biggest names in country racing like Leanne Aspros and Tracey Bartley.
Almost four years ago Portelli bailed his mate up while working for a bookie at Menangle trots and asked what he was up to and if he’d like to work at his Warwick Farm stables.
The rest, they say, is history but how does “Cracka’’ fit in to the She Will Reign story?
Portelli describes Cracka as his right hand man. A vital cog in the team.
“Without him I’d be lost. He’s a real journeyman, loves a punt and is just a real knockabout bloke and a very loyal person,’’ Portelli said.
When She Will Reign was to be transferred from Michael Costa’s stable some 16 months ago, Cracka was the man sent to pick her up.
Little did he know he was walking a filly that would change so many lives less than five months later.
“You’d walk past her every day of the week and not give her two glances,’’ Cracka said.
“Michael was pretty upbeat about the horse, he said ‘don’t worry she can gallop’. He’d got her to the stage where she was nearly ready to trial and they had a barrier mishap and stable mishap and had to pull up on her.
“We bought her over and rested her for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t until we started putting her under pressure we could tell she could gallop a bit.
“You get a lot of 5 O’clock Phar Laps, a lot of good trackworkers and triallers that can’t produce it on race day. We never really envisaged she’d go as well as she did.’’
Of course She Will Reign stepped out in her first trial on November 22 in 2016 and romped in, she repeated the dose to win her maiden on debut at Kembla Grange a couple of weeks later.
Then came the wild ride that took her to Golden Slipper glory, a Group 1 weight-for-age win and being part of the inaugural The Everest.
It almost didn’t happen though, as Cracka revealed.
“We were toying with turning her out because she was lame at the time we got her but coming off Michael’s information we pressed on,’’ he said.
“As soon as we started pacework and a couple of gallops she identified herself as one that could gallop.’’
She Will Reign is the headline act at Saturday’s Warwick Farm meeting when she has her first start for 2018 in the $250,000 Inglis Sprint (1100m) and at $1.26 with TAB she’s expected to win.
The race was robbed of some interest with the scratching of boom Victorian three-year-old Nature Strip, seen as her main rival, but with some lofty goals ahead the filly still has to perform.
And Cracka can see no reason why she won’t.
“I wouldn’t say there’s too much change in her from that first day,’’ he said.
“She’s always been a good horse to handle and ride but she’s developed a little bit. I’m really looking forward to Saturday.
“It’s exciting having good horses around, the owners are enthusiastic and there’s anticipation waiting for the Group 1 races to come along.’’
She Will Reign had her final piece of work on Thursday morning, a three-quarter pace gallop on the Warwick Farm proride, and Portelli is as happy as a trainer can be going into a first-up assignment.
Nature Strip is out of the way but there are still five rivals and jockey Ben Melham still has to negotiate his way to the post from the inside alley.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way she worked on Tuesday,’’ Portelli said.
“The one alley could present a little bit of trouble. It’ll be interesting to see what happens early.
“It’s a perfect spot until the pressure comes on, you’ve got to make sure you’re on the back of the right horse. You’d want clear running from the 500m.’’
If She Will Reign returns a winner as most expect you’ll see Gary Portelli front and centre – but keep an eye out for Cracka in the background.
That’s where he’s most comfortable and a big part of why Portelli can worry a little less about the horse after the race.