SATURDAY: January 25, 2020: OUT Hawkesbury way, Terry Croft has earned the title of “longshot king” – and with good reason!
The popular Hawkesbury trainer completed the most successful week of a 34-year career at the provincial course with a double at Port Macquarie yesterday; both of them outsiders but well fancied by the stable nonetheless.
Croft pulled off an upset $31 result with a resuming No Escape at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday, and followed that up by making it three out of three for the week, scoring with Just A Horse ($21) and Lu’s In Charge ($13).
The nine-hour return trip to what has become a favourite track for Croft was more than worthwhile, with stable followers cleaning up on the double.
“I have had five starters at Port Macquarie for four wins, so I don’t mind going there at all,” a delighted Croft said this morning.
“I thought Just A Horse could win first-up, and the odds about Lu’s In Charge surprised me because she should have won at Queanbeyan last month when she finished second after being slowly away.”
Croft’s Port Macquarie winners include Catseye Surprise in the 2015 Queen Of The North Stakes (after finishing third in the same race a year earlier), so it was fitting that he should venture to the track again for that meeting yesterday, though not having a runner in the feature event.
The unusually-named Just A Horse (non-claiming apprentice Mikayla Weir) downed Newcastle hotpot Pride of Adelaide ($1.35) in the CG&E Maiden Handicap (1100m), whilst Lu’s In Charge (apprentice Liam Blanch) charged through the pack to land the Class 2 Handicap (1000m), ironically beating Weir’s mount Siege Warfare ($6.50).
Croft planned a first-up “kill” with Just A Horse by giving him a couple of sharp jumpouts and purposely not trialling him.
“He would have been $4 or $5 if I had trialled him as he was going that well,” he said.
“Just A Horse was very immature as a two-year-old and we gave him one start at Hawkesbury as an early three-year-old.
“Mikayla rode him and he led, but got lost in the straight and we gave him a break.
“The improvement in him this time is amazing. He is so much more mature, and I really thought he could win yesterday. The owners got a good result out of him.”
Croft explained that the Albrecht three-year-old was so named after his owners all but despaired of getting a name for him.
“We put in a heap of names and got rejected, so we said he’s ‘just a horse’.”
Croft also has Just A Horse’s so far unnamed younger two-year-old brother after he went to the Ready To Run sales earlier in the season, but didn’t attract sufficient interest for the owners to part company with him.
Whilst Weir rode Just A Horse yesterday, Croft went back to the future by sourcing 3kg claimer Blanch for Lu’s In Charge.
“Liam won on the mare at Port Macquarie last June, and I thought his allowance would be very handy,” he said.
Lu’s In Charge, a $10,000 buy at the Inglis yearling sale at Scone in 2017, was runner-up when resuming to All In War in a Class 2 Handicap (1000m) at Queanbeyan on December 12.
“She missed the start clearly that day and was beaten only a half-length,” Croft said.
. Croft has been training at Hawkesbury since 1986, and usually keeps around a dozen horses in work.
Prior to that he also trained at Deagon and Caloundra in Queensland, and produced the first city winner (Pedro’s Tigress at Doomben in 1985) from the latter track after it was opened.
His Port Macquarie double yesterday took him to five winners in the first half of the current season, only two less than he prepared each in the previous two full seasons.
Croft is undecided when last week’s Rosehill winner No Escape, a $1500 “cheapie” who has earned more than $280,000, will have his next start.
“I really wanted to wait an extra week or so, but there’s not a lot on for him at present and might nominate him for another Benchmark 78 Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill next Saturday,” he said.
“He’s not up to a Group race, so I will probably have to claim next week if I run him as he will get plenty of weight.”