By Tony Megahey
A flashing light performance by exciting Tamworth galloper Burning Crown, after a bombed start, has long been stored in the memory bank of TAB Highway punters for his series return at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
And the earlier confidence in the three-year-old's potential from champion regional jockey Greg Ryan and prolific country trainer Sue Grills, is further reinforcement for a $75,000 class 2, 1100m.
But taking a shot at this year's Country Championships (currently $11 on TAB fixed odds) with the sprinter is unlikely, according to the trainer.
Grills kept things in perspective after Burning Crown won a Tamworth barrier trial by near 10 lengths in fast time on February 11.
“They were all maidens so nobody here is getting carried away,” Sue offered. “But he hummed along nicely with a little girl on, so we’re really pleased with the way he’s come back.
"He’s a lovely-actioned type and he’s usually reliable at the barrier. He’s forward enough for Saturday, but it’s far too early in his career for any ambitious plans.
“His last Highway run tells us he’ll be competitive, but I’ve told the people up here, we won’t be looking at any Country Championships.
“I mean that’s 1400m and 1200m range and right now he’s a 1000m horse and he’s only had three race starts.
"We’ll be monitoring the weather as he doesn’t handle heavy going. If it’s any worse than soft we’ll wait another day.”
In late October, Ryan elected to forego a full regional book for the one ride at Royal Randwick on Burning Crown after he won on the Helmet gelding unextended at Gunnedah and Scone by a total of nine lengths at long odds-on in fast time.
Those exhibitions of low-level flying, and the Ryan factor, saw the gelding start $2.15 at headquarters. But to the chagrin of favourite-backers, Burning Crown came out near last.
However, there was no doubting his talent as he made up many lengths to finish third, beaten 1.9 lengths by The Lion. On Saturday he’s elevated from 54kg to 58.5kg into a Class 3 for Tommy Berry with Ryan most likely locked into a full book at the corresponding Gunnedah TAB meeting.
Burning Crown has shown he can lead or be just as effective with a sit: “Nothing specific there, I’ll leave all of that to Tommy Berry.”
With the oppressive heat in regional areas, Sue will travel down on Friday afternoon and stay at the Rosehill stables of Tim Martin, a long-time associate, who started his career training in the north-east.
“I’ve never experienced heat and humidity like it. I’ve had to turn horses out, that can’t cope with it. It’s just so tough for country trainers and you just can’t have horses travelling long distances in conditions like it.”