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Cunningham To Cap Memorable Year

By Brad Gray

If only horses could talk. What would Sir Barb have said if 12 months ago he was told by the end of 2017 he’d have won three more races and celebrated Christmas by playing the part of a reindeer…

Cunningham and a cheeky Sir Barb (Pic: Clare Cunningham)

2017 isn’t a year Clare Cunningham or Sir Barb will be forgetting any time soon.

This time last year Cunningham was contemplating her next career move having previously looked after Peter Moody’s Sydney satellite stable while Sir Barb was in a paddock with a race ban all but guaranteeing a premature end to his racing career.

Fast forward to now and Cunningham has already established herself in the Sydney training ranks with eight winners from her boutique stable while Sir Barb is thriving at Cunningham’s Warwick Farm stable.

“It’s not necessarily one horse that is holding the fort up. There are about five different groups of owners and about five or six different horses winning. We are trying to get the best out of all of them. That’s really rewarding for me, that’s it just not the one horse I’ve been able to get right,” Cunningham reflected.

Sir Barb, who was banned from racing for missing the start, was purchased online by Cunningham with her brothers and sisters, the owners. By her own admission, Cunningham would’ve been happy to pick up a country race or two with the now six-year-old. However, he surpassed that expectation in one campaign winning twice at Goulburn before winning a midweek race in town.

“I didn’t start with any support. Just Sir Barb and my family,” laughed the genial trainer.

“He has come a long way hasn’t he? I just count myself very lucky to be honest. We bought a horse for $4,500 who was suspended from racing and now he is in town. I think placed well over 1400m to a mile he’ll win a Saturday race the way he is going.

“He is very happy and even though he was going so well last preparation and didn’t really need to change, he has changed again. He has had less problems and mentally, he seems really happy to be here.”

Sir Barb resumes at Warwick Farm on Saturday in the Hyland Boxing Day Sprint (1200m) and with Jason Collett and Josh Adams both suspended, Robert Thompson takes the ride.

Sir Barb winning at Warwick Farm last time in

“He is probably not a Benchmark 85 sprinter, he is going to enjoy further, but we’ll get a line on him and as long as he does his usual thing of getting back and hitting the line I’ll be happy,” Cunningham said.

“His best chance will be if there is a fair bit of pace on. If there is a really hot pace he is going well enough to run top three but if they dictate from in front, he’ll be running on. He’ll get out to 1400m second up.

“I love RT. He rode a lot for Moods when we had horses at the provincials and in the country and I know that he rides the horse and not the race which is important for this fella - that bit of extra horsemanship. I’ve got good trust in him and he’ll do the right thing by me and the horse. The last thing I want is somebody getting on him and making him do something out of his comfort zone.”|

Cunningham has already displayed an incredible knack with tried horses but is keen to show her wares as a trainer of two-year-olds and helping her cause is syndicator Wylie Dalziel recently coming on board.

“I started with one horse and one box and I didn’t know what to expect and now we’re flat out. We’ve got 10 in work and another three or four in the paddock. We’re generating new owners nearly every week or every second week,” she said.

Cunningham after Cradle Mountain won at Goulburn (Pic: Bradleys)

“I’ve got a lovely little Krupt filly (Onthetake) who made it to the trials last prep. She is going to be good for the stable and should be able to win a couple of races for me. It will be nice to prove to people that I’m not one dimensional with the older horses.

“Cradle Mountain has won two straight now and he came to me pretty blank, just from the breakers. Even though he was a three-year-old when he got here, we did a lot of his education. I’d like to think I’m capable of bringing young ones up through the grades as well.”

Cradle Mountain, who has won his past two by a combined margin of over six lengths, is likely to be seen next at Kembla Grange on January 3.

“To us he feels like a miler and he is winning over 1200m at the moment so he’s really exciting for the stable,” beamed Cunningham.

“I was tempted to come to town but we may as well keep going through the grades and get as much money for the owners as possible. He might be Group quality. We’ll never say never with him.”

Cunningham also said for punters to keep an eye on Global Rocket and Sacred Edge when they step out next which will be sometime around the New Year.

All the fields, form and replays for Warwick Farm on Saturday.

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