Once racing is in your blood, it’s pretty hard to shake.
Young Hawkesbury trainer Luke Hilton is testament to that and he hopes his Mudgee success yesterday with roughie She Excites will be the springboard to rebuilding his career.
She Excites ($51), aided by a clever Anthony Cavallo ride, overcame an awkward draw to overpower her rivals in the Maiden Handicap (1400m) at her first start for a new stable.
She carried number 13 saddlecloth and knocked most TAB quaddie players out of contention as she ran down $2.20 favorite Sprezzatura.
But it wasn’t unlucky for 32-year-old Hilton, who has the right pedigree to suggest he will make it in the training ranks – second time around.
He is the grandson of the successful former Cowra trainer Viv Miller, who passed away last year at 94 years of age.
Miller regularly made his mark whenever he brought horses to Sydney, and Hilton clearly has learnt plenty from him.
Hilton trained part-time at Hawkesbury but gave it away in 2011 and took a five-year hiatus to pursue other business interests.
“I was running hotels and trying to train horses at the same time,” he said this morning. “I found it didn’t mix too well.
“But I decided last year to give training another go, and concentrate on it full-time.
“I’ve got six horses in work at Hawkesbury, and naturally I would like to build up that number.”
Hilton’s return to the training ranks has been ably assisted by owner Brent Dale, the son of now retired former Sydney starter Bill Dale.
“Bill has been a good friend of our family, and Brent said he would support me with some horses when I took out my licence again last June,” he explained.
“This mare (She Excites) had not been getting away well at some of her previous starts in the Riverina but she had run four placings and Brent asked me if I would have a go with her. He formed a syndicate to race her.
“Brent is also involved with my first winner back (Mi Estilo at Wellington on 9 December last year).”
Before Hilton “retired” from training after his first stint, his last winner was Ellyonbye at Orange on 26 November 2010.
He paid tribute to both trackwork rider Vanessa Medhurst and yesterday’s winning rider Tony Cavallo for helping get She Excites into winning form.
“Vanessa has done a terrific job with the mare,” he said. “We have given She Excites a lot of barrier practice at Hawkesbury in recent weeks. Tony rode her brilliantly yesterday. He got her away nicely and then eased back from the wide barrier. Then he saved valuable ground near the inside on the home turn. If he had gone around the field, we would not have won.”
Hilton started both She Excites and another recent acquisition Circadian Rhythm ($41), who made the pace and got a break on straightening before finishing a creditable sixth.
He put blinkers on Circadian Rhythm and took both blinkers and ear muffs off She Excites.
“I went back to scratch with She Excites,” he said. “I trialled her without the blinkers at Hawkesbury last Monday and even though she finished last of seven in a 1000m heat, she trialled nicely. Adam Hyeronimus rode her and told me he felt she would win races.
“I thought she would run well yesterday, but the wide barrier put us off a bit. We knew she would need a lot of luck, and Tony’s ride was obviously the difference in the result.
“Circadian Rhythm was a little keen with the blinkers on and found the 1400m a shade far yesterday but I think we can win at least a race with him.”