By Ray Hickson
You Make Me Smile is almost five but trainer Jason Coyle says he’s still on a learning curve with the talented sprinter.
It was only prior to last preparation Coyle made the decision to geld the horse, which saw his rating skyrocket from 67 to 84 after three wins from six starts and stamp himself as a horse on the rise.
But the one thing Coyle wants to find out in the Precise Air Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill on Saturday is whether he’s one of those horses that needs to lead to win.
“He’s been a hard horse to figure out from the start,’’ Coyle said.
“He can do a bit too much in front and he’s put up the white flag a couple of times when he’s been headed.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they hike along a bit and he takes a sit and closes off or whether his forte is to try and get to the front. We’ll continue to learn more about him this preparation now he is at a higher level of racing.’’
However, Coyle might have to wait a run to find out the answer definitively as he points to You Make Me Smile’s first-up run last prep where he was heavily backed but missed a place at Randwick on Boxing Day.
“I go back to that run and first-up I don’t have my horses rock hard, you could make the case he only got beaten two and half that day and then came out with that run under his belt and blew them out of the water,’’ he said.
You Make Me Smile has been solid in the market since betting opened, he was $4.80 second favourite with TAB on Thursday, and Coyle said he’s had a flawless build up.
He does warn against getting carried away with the gelding’s six length winning margin from his Kembla barrier trial but couldn’t be happier with the horse.
“His trials have been good, he’s probably a bit more effective over the 1200m and I always thought he could get to 1400m,’’ he said.
“I said to Kathy (O’Hara) that trial was his last piece of work leading into this. We were out there to roll along. I don’t think he did as much as it looks by the margin and without something to force him to keep going Kathy said he stargazed a bit.
“He made it through to a stakes race last preparation so you’d like to see him continue to improve and go on from that.’’
Stablemate River Bird would be a nomination for most improved this season as she chases her fifth win from six runs back in the Pro It Handicap (1350m).
You Make Me Smile wins a trial at Kembla Grange on July 17
She’s in line for her fourth straight win at Rosehill, each start spaced by two weeks, and is a warm $2.20 favourite to keep up the winning run as Coyle assesses his next steps.
“I’d like to do it all the time with horses that struggle to win a maiden,’’ he said.
“She’s had a lot go her way this preparation compared to last time when nothing went her way.
“Once again, I’m learning about her and whether she can get 1350m and then making a decision as to whether we press on into the early spring or put her away and think about how long we give her.’’
River Bird could provide Coyle with a second BOBS Horse Of The Year, after Memes shared the title in 2016-17, as her four wins have her on top of the leaderboard with just the two city meetings remaining.
Meanwhile, Coyle confirmed the promising Covert Operation has been sold to Hong Kong and will do his future racing there.
Covert Operation, a soon to be four-year-old gelding, won his only race start on the Kensington track back on June 26.