By Ray Hickson
Jason Collett is acutely aware of what talented sprinter Cradle Mountain means to trainer Clare Cunningham and would like nothing more than to guide him to a comeback win at Rosehill on Saturday.
A winner of four of his seven starts, including a Kembla Grange track record, Cradle Mountain returns from a severe hamstring injury he suffered during the Scone carnival in May.
Then, a week after the hamstring injury he wretched a tendon in his box and it almost required surgery but he recovered without the need for intervention.
Collett said everything he’s seen of the gelding around the Cunningham stable and in his work and trials suggests he’s ready to go in the Bradford Black Handicap (1200m).
“He’s a pretty special horse to Clare, a real character around the stable and one of the better horses she has so when it happened it was quite upsetting,’’ Collett said.
“It didn’t look good.
“But his trials have been good, all signs leading into it are where we want them.
“Just to get him back to the races and performing will be a relief because he’s a bit of an accident-prone horse.’’
Cradle Mountain has been an odds-on favourite at his past four starts.
Punters have forgiven his Scone defeat, where he had obvious excuses, and certainly not forgotten the five-year-old as he opened $3 on Wednesday and quickly firmed into $2.40 for his comeback.
Collett said Cradle Mountain shouldn’t be lacking in fitness after his second trial on a heavy track where he raced away from Wednesday’s Randwick winner Whiskey Shooter to win by two lengths.
“Clare has taken him slowly and it was a good fitness run the other day,’’ he said.
“He’s had two good trials and was tested out on a pretty heavy surface at Randwick he wasn’t overly comfortable on.’’
Cradle Mountain takes out a trial at Randwick on October 15
One aspect of Cradle Mountain’s form that is interesting is that when he’s led he hasn’t been beaten.
From barrier four Collett has the option, assuming the horse breaks cleanly, to lead but he’s adamant that it’s not essential for him to win.
“He’s not the quickest out of the barriers but once he does hit the ground there’s good speed there,’’ he said.
“One of the good attributes he has is he can put himself up there and out of trouble. But he isn’t a one-dimensional horse, there’s a few different ways of riding him.
“He was quite relaxed in the last trial, that was probably more due to the heavy track, and he did take a sit in that last run but when the pressure moment came on there was nothing there due to the injury he had.’’
Collett will be carrying the hopes of punters in several races at Rosehill with the plum ride on Time To Reign ($1.45), promising filly Brazilica ($2.80), Highway favourite Chewbacca ($3.70) and in-form stayer Tamarack ($3.90) among his full book of rides.