By Ray Hickson
An attitude problem prompted trainer Greg Hickman to send consistent seven-year-old Top Striker to dressage school at the start of this preparation to calm him down.
The early results are promising as the aging gelding resumed with a win two weeks ago and chases successive wins for the first time in almost four years in the Tab.com.au Handicap (1250m) at Randwick on Saturday.
As the search begins for the next Pierata, Hickman is relying on Top Striker and Braces, a couple of stable stalwarts, to fly the stable flag.
“He races consistently but he has a bad attitude,’’ Hickman said.
“I’ve sent him to do some dressage and trained him a bit differently.
“He spent a fortnight with the guy who breaks our horses and did some dressage, he tends to work too hard and I want him to relax a bit so he’s not going to the races doing too much.’’
Top Striker wins first-up at Randwick on April 20
Top Striker, $7.50 with TAB, took advantage of a rare favourable barrier when he scored in similar grade on the final day of the Sydney autumn carnival at Randwick and with apprentice Jean Van Overmeire’s claim will carry the same weight.
Hickman said it’s a plus that Van Overmeire has ridden the gelding before and that knowledge may aid him in offsetting a trickier gate.
“He was probably a bit lucky but Damien Lane rode him very well the other day,’’ he said.
“He normally draws a bad barrier more than a good barrier so that makes it a bit harder. He’s not a horse you can stop start on, he has to run his race how he’s feeling on the day.
“Jean’s ridden him well before so he knows him. The horse has done well since he raced and I’m happy going to the races.’’
Braces isn’t as cranky as Top Striker but a month between runs, a result of him being a late scratching at the barriers recently, has Hickman cautious about his chances in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1550m).
The gelding, who won at Warwick Farm in March, appreciates some rain affected ground and might not quite get a surface to his liking on Saturday but the trainer is adamant he’ll improve on whatever he does with a view to an 1800m race in two weeks.
“He’s another drawn a bit awkwardly and he’ll probably need this run and he will probably need some rain,’’ he said.
“We’re coming into the right time of the year for him, this race will bring him on.’’