Mick Smith talks with excitement ahead of the opening race at Wagga because it’s over 3200m.
And the Queanbeyan trainer has two chances lining up in the staying event who the punters have been able to separate but he’s struggling to.
Hilltop Hood takes on stablemate Hello China and, while the former is battling it out for favouritism, the latter is at double-figure odds in the small field.
“I think they’re both going to go well,” Smith said. “I don’t want to get into trouble here but on his day Hello China is probably the better of the two horses but Hello China has got a mind of his own.
“If the genuine Hello China turns up, he’s just as likely to win as the other fella. He’s had seven wins and Shaun Guymer has rode him in six of them.”
Hilltop Hood does come into the race with better form behind him and won last start at Wagga in a 2500m race. Uncharacteristically, he led all the way under Nick Heywood which is hard to do in staying races and it will be even harder to repeat it over more ground on Friday.
“I couldn’t look at the turn. He’s never led in his life. One time he got to the lead at Bega then he stopped and waited for the others before charging home again,” Smith said.
“Hilltop Hood is a beautiful horse with big feet and he likes the slow ground and I thought his win the other day was great.
“He was strong through the line and Nick was impressed with him. Straight after the race I asked Nick if he thought he’d be fine to step up to 3200m and he said ‘no worries’.”
Hello China will handle a wet track better than Hilltop Hood however and he’s rock-hard fit and shouldn’t have any excuses.
“We tried to get Hello China ready for the 3800m race at Wagga a few months ago but it ended up being called off so he’s been ready for this distance since August,” Smith said.
“I’ve taken them in the quinella. Obviously the Ciaron Maher horse (Dambulla) is hard to beat. It brings different form lines and I think will be the favourite.”
Smith has never had a runner over 3200m but was appreciative of the club having put the race on. Despite his two horses having had a good grounding for the gruelling test, he’s naturally got a few doubts in his mind.
“The winner the other day at 2500m was the furthest distance I’ve trained a winner at so you don’t know if you’ve done everything perfect for 3200m,” he said. “I think I have but as a country trainer you never know. It’s not like you’ve had the chance to do it 100 times.
“I’ve ran them up interchangeably their whole preps so they’ve had similar campaigns.”
Smith also runs Beauty At Dawn in the fifth race and even though she’s unplaced in four runs and is at long odds, Smith thinks she can run her best race.
“I think she’s going really nicely for me and I’m excited to see how she runs,” he said. “I think she wants further, but I’m hoping she can run in the first three.”
ANCHOIS ON THE MONEY
Anchois only has to do one thing at Moree – hold his current form – and he’ll win.
The Choisir six-year-old runs in a Class 3 Handicap (950m) for trainer Aiden St Vincent, who watched on proudly as Anchois ran 1½ lengths fourth behind Never Talk at Newcastle last start. He’s in an easier even race on Friday and has his second start for his new stable.
“I think he’s only got to repeat his run the other day at Newcastle and I can see him winning that race,” St Vincent said. “It was good first-up considering he was off for 12 months.
“He’s taken enough benefit out of it and he’s on the comeback trail from an injury which is why he started off over 900m and this race is now well within his reach.
“He’s definitely got that class factor on his side in a race like that. It’s been a juggling act to get him fit but keep him sound at the same time but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Kingoftheharbour also runs for St Vincent in the first race and he’s looking for his first win at start 13. He’s only had three placings but also drops back in grade off a sixth placing at the provincials last time.
“His run wasn’t too bad at Newcastle,” St Vincent said. “They ran quicker time in his maiden than they did in the benchmark race. They went home in 32 seconds and he got back from a bad gate and couldn’t make up the ground.
“He’s back to handicap conditions in the bush and won’t have to carry 59kg.”
If the five-year-old brings his best he’ll be competitive from a good draw (4) in a big field.
“He’s been a bit of an on and off horse. He’s run nice races and you’d think he would’ve won by now but he can do some things wrong,” St Vincent said. “He’s more suited to this shorter race and now that he’s back in ground he’s a chance.”
Ski Missile is St Vincent’s leading contender in the fourth race as he takes on stablemate Modulo.
“They’re both in their right races. If Ski Missile drew a better barrier I’d be very confident he’d run in the first three,” St Vincent said. “I’ve only had the other horse for a few weeks and he needs to be running over a mile to be competitive.”