By Ray Hickson
This is not a throw at the stumps. Wagga trainer Scott Spackman has genuine designs on a Golden Slipper berth with his unbeaten youngster Rocket Tiger and they’ll be realised or dashed at Rosehill on Saturday.
It’s rare for Spackman to have a two-year-old runner – Rocket Tiger is his first winner from that age group – and taking his place in a race like the Group 2 $250,000 Iron Jack Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) is even rarer.
“He’s a bit special. I can’t sit here and praise him enough,’’ Spackman said.
“He reminds me so much of his sister but he’s better.”
That sister is a mare called Takookacod. Spackman sent her to John Thompson as a two-year-old and she had a couple of starts for the Randwick trainer before wind issues got in the way.
She’s now retired but still won five races when she returned to Spackman and he occasionally wonders what might have been.
“His sister had problems and that’s the difference,’’ he said.
“She was a handy little mare and that’s why we sent her to John Thompson as an early two-year-old.
“John’s not one that takes on a small horse but he really rated her but things went pear shaped as far as the wind goes. She went to town for me but not at the capacity that we thought she was going to get to.”
Rocket Tiger is a $13 chance with TAB in the Silver Slipper on the back of a protest win on debut at Canberra and a gutsy victory at Randwick on Boxing Day.
The gelding isn’t nominated for the Golden Slipper but that’s where he’ll head, and deservedly so, if he can topple the city slickers at Rosehill and with early favourite Four Moves Ahead scratched that job is a little easier.
“He’d want to run a shocker and just not put his hand up, that’s when you go back and reassess,’’ he said.
“If he runs in the top two or three you’d probably see us back for the Todman. If he wins he’d probably go to the Black Opal for his final hitout.
“I’m hoping we can get the job done this week because that makes my job easier.”
Spackman said Rocket Tiger more than warranted a Silver Slipper berth when he knocked over Vandoula Lass at his second start after that filly had scored a runaway debut win.
He might have been $26 that day and largely ignored but there’s no knocking the performance and he hopes it is replicated.
“I loved the way he did it, he knuckled down and wasn’t going to let anything get past him,’’ Spackman said.
“They kept talking the second horse up but they were worried about the time it ran. That’s the thing that gave me hope, I was trying to map out in my mind where I was going to be in the run.
“We couldn’t let that thing get away with an easy time in front. He’s a tough little rooster. He’s the ultimate professional.”
Rocket Tiger appeared in a barrier trial on his home track just over a week ago to have him ready for his stiffest test and Spackman said the horse is itching to get back to the races.
“He’s good. Great. Awesome. Can’t ask for anything more,’’ he said.
“He’s bouncing around the stables, looking at me asking ‘when are you going let me out there to do it again’. He’s a groovy little dude.
“You work him, you get him home. He’s feeling awesome, straight into his box and into his feed. Nothing seems to faze him.”
It's hard not to notice Rocket Tiger's nomination for the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes in April - Spackman said that was an 'embarrassing' accident.
"I tried to pull him out but I left it too late. That’s not going to happen, I don’t know what I was thinking,'' he said.
Rocket Tiger wins at Randwick on December 26
While Rocket Tiger is at Rosehill making his case for a shot at the world’s richest two-year-old race, stablemate and recent working partner Tocatchacod will be at home taking on the $150,000 SDRA Newhaven Park Country Championships Qualifier (1400m).
The four-year-old has only won two from 20 but has been in the placings another 11 times so has his share of honesty.
He finished alongside Rocket Tiger in their February 11 trial and Spackman said an ideal barrier, compared to the race’s big guns, gives him a chance.
“He‘s a bit of a pack chaser but I do believe he’s come on a fair bit since we’ve been working him with the two-year-old,’’ he said.
“He drags him along and makes him work a bit better.
“It’s a strong enough race. There’s a couple of nice horses in there. I think Blitzar is the one to beat. I love what I’ve seen and the 1400m is going to be right up his alley.
“But if we can get a nice run he will run a good race.”