By Ray Hickson
Trainer Cameron Crockett was vocal prior to Sharpe Hussler’s return earlier this month that the gelding wasn’t quite right but he believes the horse has turned the corner.
However, the now Scone based trainer still has the caution sign up as the seven-year-old tackles the Pacific Boating Handicap (1100m), a race he won last year.
Sharpe Hussler has only had the one run since finishing seventh in the inaugural Kosciuszko and it pleased Crockett, running fifth to Invictus Salute at Randwick three weeks ago.
“Everyone will notice he’s still not the best in the coat and I think a week after that last run he started to turn the corner,’’ Crockett said.
“He wasn’t right, we had all the tests done and there was nothing amiss. All we could do was say he doesn’t look 100 per cent but all the tests say he is so we let him go around.
“The run was good, probably the best he’s run for me first-up. I’ve always thought his best form, particularly for me, was second-up.’’
Crockett relocated from Mudgee to Scone earlier this year and he suspects that move affected some of his horses a bit more than expected and they needed time to acclimatise.
Whether that’s what has bothered Sharpe Hussler is unclear.
The gelding is usually a sectional star in his races but Punter’s Intelligence shows he only clocked the fourth best last 200m (12.26) of the race when resuming and third best last 600m (35.14).
Since the first-up run Sharpe Hussler has been back to the trials at Scone and Crockett says it has brought his fitness on significantly.
“I’ve always trained him fairly kind and I thought there’s a trial at home, he only had to walk down the road, just to switch him on and turn him on and get that extra fitness you can’t achieve in trackwork,’’ he said.
“All I want to see from the horse is to go out and run a good race then come home and improve. The horse has been going backwards for so long, we’re finally getting to the bottom of it and I’d like to think now he will benefit from a race.
“I’ve done everything in my power to get him to where he should be and other than his off coat everything's indicating he is on the improve.’’
Sharpe Hussler, who gets in with 57kg after the claim for Chris Williams, has been a firmer in betting since he opened with TAB at $14 and by Friday he was a $7.50 chance.
Crockett said the way the race sets up it should suit the horse to sit back and charge home as he usually does.
“If I was turning him out in as good order as I did last year I think he’d win,’’ he said.
“There’s just a little question mark over where he’s at but all the signs say he’s fine. His muscle tone is great, his fitness level is good and everything else seems perfect.
“Even if there is a bit of an on pace bias towards the end of the day everyone is starting to really push forward and they tend to swoop. I hope it doesn’t work the other way where they think there’s so much speed and don’t use themselves up and the speed map goes out the window.’’
Sharpe Hussler's first-up fifth at Randwick on July 6
Stablemate The Warlord won’t be giving away a start in the TAB Highway (1500m) and Crockett said he’s ready to produce his best run this preparation.
The four-year-old was given a longer spell than normal after winning at Cowra in January in very hot conditions and has taken longer to come to hand but he was only beaten less than half a length second-up at Scone on July 12.
“It was the right thing to do for the horse’s wellbeing but for the type of horse he is he doesn’t need a long time in the paddock,’’ Crockett said.
“He probably did a bit too well in the paddock so I think in his first couple he needed the hit out.’’
The Warlord is a $12 chance in the Highway and Crockett said jockey Nash Rawiller will be able to use the long run down the back straight to take up a forward position.
“I would have loved to draw four and say to Nash sit in the box seat but from where we are we don’t have that decision to make so I think we have to have a squeeze and come across,’’ he said.