By Tony Megahey
Ballina’s Steven Hardy is acutely aware of the strength and the target of accomplished training rivals in Saturday’s TAB $60,000 Highway Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick, but his form sprinter Collins Creek has exceeded expectations.
Outsider Collins Creek, a family and friends racing enterprise, is coming off courageous sprint wins at Ipswich, and Hardy’s former base at Warwick, so connections aren’t making the long trip to be mere spectators on another spectacular Winx headliner and Group race day at headquarters.
Another deep Highway continues the preparation for powerful country stables who are setting runners for the massive $200.000 Anniversary Highway event over the upcoming Randwick Spring Carnival.
Previous Highways winners Super Star Bob, My Tagoson (Hugh Bowman) Schedule and several series placegetters make Saturday’s capacity field as strong as any on record.
The prolific series winning stables of Matthew Dale and Matthew Dunn who again fought out last Saturday’s Rosehill Highway, typically provide well credentialed favourites in Super Star Bob and dual northern winner Count Cumani (Corey Brown). But Hardy isn’t fazed taking them on with a dual recent winner who ironically is by Nothing To Lose.
“It’s our first Highway and a really strong race, but this horse really surprised me winning last start as he was off a let-up up and I thought he’d need the run for sure,” Hardy explained. “He was caught wide, headed but showed exceptional determination, and he’ll certainly be further improved.
“He also jumped a class to win and has been carrying up to 58kg so Andrew Adkins is a nice booking, his claim brings us in well at the weights.
“This gelding puts himself into a race, should be on pace at 1400m.”
Collins Creek has won three of just seven race starts and his 56kg will be reduced by Adkins’ 1.5kg claim in a class three event.
Collins Creek was broken in by Hardy’s brother Matthew, and was bred at the Kyogle property of the Wickham family, long time clients and friends of the Hardys.
“Last prep he showed us he was well above average; second up when we thought he was underdone, he ran a massive race at Grafton. A photo second to Leap of Legend, and it went on to run third in a Randwick Highway.
“He’s progressed into a really nice horse, but the reservations are he needs top of the ground, his only unplaced runs were on soft tracks. And long road trips are always a query first time when they’re inexperienced.”
Collins Creek will be double figure odds from a wide draw, while typically the Dale and Dunn stables head the betting markets, along with the Northam’s My Tagoson through the massive Bowman influence.