By Ray Hickson
Jason Collett couldn’t have asked for a better first impression of his TAB Everest mount Gytrash as he guided the star South Australian sprinter through his paces in a Warwick Farm trial on Friday.
Just three days after his 1600km road trip from Adelaide to his Sydney base at Clare Cunningham’s stable in south western Sydney, the five-year-old gave a glimpse of what he’s made of as he hit the line with Group 1 placed mare Fasika in a 799m heat.
It was the first time Collett had sat on the gelding’s back since he arrived earlier in the week and he said without knowing the horse too intimately just yet he seems fairly push button.
“It’s hard to make a call off one ride, but he was pretty straightforward today and as I get to know him more I’ll learn about him,’’ Collett said.
“He was nice and relaxed and had a nice hit out without being too revved up.’’
Trainer Gordon Richards took advantage of the trials being held at Warwick Farm a few days after his journey to give Gytrash his first serious attempt at racing in the Sydney direction.
It was clear the experience will do him a world of good and Collett said the gelding had to be steered around the corner but felt an immediate response once he balanced up.
“He got around the bend okay, a bit more practice and that will help him,’’ he said.
“I had to ask him to quicken because he was a bit lost on the bend, I just wanted to make sure he got around and then switched over (legs), which he did, and then I asked him.
“Once he quickened he dashed up nicely.’’
Collett hasn’t allowed himself to put too much thought into the prospect of having his first ride in the TAB Everest just yet but is humbled to have been hand picked by Richards to partner Gytrash who runs in the Inglis slot.
The past few months have been significant for Collett, who really knuckled down to improve his riding when COVID-19 changed the goal posts, and he's riding with more confidence than ever.
“It is exciting but it’s also a long way away. There’s a bit of water under the bridge until then,’’ he said.
“It’s the same for the horse too. The Everest isn’t for eight weeks so there’s plenty of time to really tighten the screws up.”
Richards told Sky Racing that Gytrash won’t trial again before his Sydney debut in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes (1000m) at Randwick on September 5 where he’ll face off again with Nature Strip after lowering the TAB Everest favourite’s colours back in February.
He plans to give the horse a couple of searching track gallops and wants him on par to when he downed Nature Strip over 1000m in the Lightning Stakes.
“He’ll be pretty much ready but first-up they are always a little underdone,’’ he said.
Gytrash runs second in a Warwick Farm trial on August 21
“He was a touch underdone going into the Lightning and he won that well so we won’t be doing much more with him.
“He wasn’t out there to break any records today, just to get comfortable with the environment and the clockwise way of racing.”
Nature Strip is the $2.80 favourite with TAB, on the back of his second impressive trial win this week, in the $15m feature at Royal Randwick on October 17 with Gytrash at $11.
While Gytrash won't trial again, we'll have another look at Fasika when she has her third trial early next month in preparation for a first-up assasult on the Group 2 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on September 12.
Her trainer Joe Pride is bullish about Fasika winning that race and making a strong case for one of the remaining nine TAB Everest slots.