By Ray Hickson
Jockey Josh Parr likes his golf and his rugby league. He also very much likes Group 1 winning three-year-old Shadow Hero.
And it was on the golf course during one of his rounds with Peter Sterling that the Parramatta legend told Parr of a theory about how premiership teams must improve if they are to defend their crown.
He felt it could relate to horse racing too so as Shadow Hero begins his autumn campaign in the Group 2 $400,000 Arrowfield Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday, Parr says what happened in the spring means little and they need to be better.
“It doesn’t matter what they have done, three-year-olds from the spring to the autumn need to improve,’’ Parr said.
“Just from natural progression the opposition is going to grow and get stronger.
“Peter Sterling said to me one day, if an NRL team try and play the same tactics and the same structure the year after winning the grand final they are no chance of winning the next year.
“The progression needs to be better all the time and you can relate it to our sport, you have to be constantly getting better and stronger.”
Parr rates Sterling somewhat unbeatable on the golf course so he’s more than happy to take on the advice despite the fact he’s a Dragons, not an Eels, supporter.
And he said while Shadow Hero has a bit of a head start given he was quite mature in the spring when he raced away with the Spring Champion Stakes in October he is convinced the gelding is a better horse in 2020.
“He has definitely improved, he is a stronger horse this time physically,’’ Parr said.
“I was really impressed with his most recent trial over 1000m on heavy ground because he was able to take up a position closer to the speed and still build off it.
“In each piece of work that he’s done the last 100m of the work has been the strongest and then it is an effort for me to stop him after the line.
“If he is able to do that at a distance we believe he can get to, which is a Derby trip, he is an exciting prospect.’’
Everyone is salivating over the prospect of a rematch between Shadow Hero and Cox Plate runner-up Castelvecchio in races like the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas at 2000m and Group 1 Australian Derby at 2400m later in the autumn.
Shadow Hero has an unplaced effort in the Victoria Derby, as favourite, against his name but he pulled up with a degree of EIPH and clearly didn’t handle the arduous conditions on the day.
“The whole day was a nightmare. Loading in the barriers it was pouring rain and the track broke up, it was impossible to make up ground and we were a backmarker so he didn’t show early speed,’’ Parr said.
“It’s hard to judge him on that particular run.
“The best line is the Spring Champion Stakes when he charged through the line at the back end of 2000m and left Castelvecchio behind him who went on to run second in a Cox Plate.’’
So what can we expect from Shadow Hero, who is on the fourth line of betting at $7.50 with TAB, first-up at 1400m on a Derby preparaton.
Shadow Hero runs second in a trial at Warwick Farm on February 13
Trainer Mark Newnham subscribes to the ‘bigger and stronger’ description of Shadow Hero and said from where he sits the gelding is in for a fantastic preparation.
Parr would very much like to walk away from Saturday with a Hobartville win under his belt but if you gave him the option to start his autumn in the manner Shadow Hero started his spring he’d take it every day of the week.
Shadow Hero resumed in the spring with a slashing third in the Dulcify Stakes over 1500m at Rosehill before those dominant wins in the Gloaming and Spring Champion.
“We thought of that when talking about his prep this time,’’ Parr said.
“The 1400m realistically against these horses is too short for him.
“The race looks to lack speed, his winning chances aren’t so great because of where he will position and the possibility of a sit and sprint but what we need to see from him is a positive effort and I’m pretty confident we will.”