By Tony Megahey
Wily veteran Norm Gardner invariably lands prizemoney in his rare Highway forays and has made a calculated decision at value odds for Saturday’s TAB $75.000 Class 2, 1100m episode at Rosehill Gardens.
Gardner, from Wagga Wagga and long based in the ACT, is renowned for short course flyers and was an original dual series winner with brilliant filly Atom Eve in 2016, and then stablemate Bootlegging.
Norm never overrates them or wastes time and mileage.
So with ‘an impossible draw’ he is likely to leave his more talented Carruthers, a I Am Invincible gelding, named after our 1950’s national boxing legend, at home in favour of promising stablemate Caccini with 54.5 for Jess Taylor at each-way odds.
“She’s drawn well, she’s progressive, going really well - Carruthers has more natural ability but he’s drawn off the track. We’ll likely scratch him,'' Gardner explains.
Caccini runs second at Canberra on October 19
Caccini, a four-year-old Nicconi mare with the consistency of two wins and six placings from 13 starts, has progressed according to Norm since an unlucky second at Canberra after a creditable sixth in a Royal Randwick episode won by Matt Dale's Sei Stella in September.
“She’s had a nice freshen, down in the weights from 60kg last start and she’s a mare that will race on pace. She’ll be competitive,'' he said.
Jess Taylor comes to town with the momentum and confidence of recent wins for the Cleary stable including completing a double with brilliant prospect Kiss My Swiss on Tuesday at Queanbeyan.
“Jess is riding in form and with plenty of confidence, happy to have her on,'' Gardner said.
Meanwhile, in essence, Carruthers would have been punching way above his weight from barrier 17.
“Exactly, it’s hard enough winning at the regionals without coming to town against those strong Highway stables with nothing in your favour from out there. His wins have been outstanding, he’ll win more but you need to place them without any disadvantages,'' he said.
“But my brothers were keen sportsman, fought as amateurs and back then Jimmy Carruthers was all the talk as an undefeated World Champion.
“So over the years I thought, naming one for the family after an Aussie great would be appropriate.”
As for Atom Eve, she has been retired and is in foal to Smart Missile.
Saturday’s Highway, with a capacity field for the short course dash is particularly open through the absence of prolific series winners Matthew Dunn and Danny Williams.