Hawkesbury trainers Garry Frazer and Jason Attard both know what it takes to produce horses fit enough to make their presence felt when resuming, and their skills were on display for all to see at Nowra on Tuesday when they each clinched first-up victories.
Frazer scored with Eminence in the Class 2 Handicap (1200m) and Attard with recent acquisition As I Do in the Benchmark 60 Handicap (1600m).
Talented apprentice Jean Van Overmeire took major points in the opening heat of the annual Rising Star Series by getting Eminence ($3.70) home virtually in the last stride in a tense three-way finish. Frazer afterwards rated Van Overmeire (indentured to Bjorn Baker at Warwick Farm) the “best apprentice in Sydney”; high praise from a man who knows all about tutoring successful young jockeys.
Eminence, who carries George Altomonte’s Corumbene Stud colours, had not raced since January – ironically also at Nowra when unplaced – and Frazer had her ready for a bold first-up bid: “She has come back a bit stronger,” he said. “This was only her ninth start; she has taken a lot of time.”
Despite being pushed wide before the home turn, Van Overmeire was happy with Eminence’s rhythm and brought her with a sustained burst to nab Smiling All ($9) and From Pentridge ($21). A five-year-old mare by Bernardini, Eminence also scored first-up last November in a 1300m Maiden at Kembla Grange.
Another Hawkesbury representative Ikaba ($1.70 favourite) weakened to finish last of the seven runners. Ikaba showed no abnormality when examined by the club’s vet afterwards, and trainer Brad Widdup undertook to report back to stewards on the gelding’s progress in the next few days.
Attard had four-year-old Casino Prince mare As I Do ready to tackle 1600m first-up and at her first start for him – and a dashing Jay Ford ride put the icing on the cake. As I Do was momentarily held up behind runners at the 300m until Ford spotted a gap near the inside rail and sent her through.
She responded to overhaul Man Of Colours ($12) and Ikaba’s Hawkesbury stablemate Capeabeel ($4.60) in the nick of time. As I Do had not started since April 15 when last of seven runners over 2000m at Kembla Grange.
“I gave her three trials (two at Hawkesbury and another at Rosehill), and a good hitout in her last trial at home on September 18 to make sure she was ready for the 1600m,” Attard said. “Jay told me how he planned to ride her, and that was exactly as I had wanted. He does his form.”
As I Do has had only a handful of starts, and her previous victory also was over 1600m, at Goulburn in March on heavy ground.