SUNDAY: January 19, 2020: As with the farmers, Hawkesbury trainer Terry Croft was glad the rain finally came – but for a different reason.
Croft had been hoping for a change in the weather for his noted wet tracker No Escape, and it could not have arrived at a more appropriate time.
Beginning a new campaign, the seven-year-old made a lie of $31 rank outsider odds by beating his six rivals in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1350m) on a heavy surface at Rosehill Gardens yesterday.
Ridden by James Innes Jnr – who has partnered him seven times for two city wins at double figure odds and as many placings, including one at Royal Randwick at $101 – No Escape again showed his liking for wet ground in beating Julian Rock ($4) and $2.90 favorite Stella Sea Sun.
“We definitely gave him a chance even though he hadn’t won first-up before,” a delighted Croft said today.
“In fact, I had been holding off for a while running him, hoping for a wet track.
“Six of his eight wins have been either on soft or heavy ground.”
No Escape has certainly been a stable stalwart, and also a wonderful horse to his connections, given he cost only $1500 as a yearling.
The son of Shellscrape was Lot 3 at the 2014 Inglis Classic yearling sale Winter Book and was purchased privately after being passed in for $1400.
He is the second and last foal of the Distant Music mare Lady Artemis, whose sole victory from 12 starts was in a 1600m Parkes Maiden in December, 2008 at her final race.
“One of my clients bought No Escape, and he is raced by a syndicate which comprises many regulars at the Royal Hotel at Richmond,” Croft said.
“He was very immature as a young horse, and we didn’t start him as a two-year-old.
“In fact, he didn’t begin racing until well into his three-year-old season and was placed at three of six runs in his first campaign.
“He broke through at his 10th start at Gosford on New Year’s Eve 2016.
“No Escape is a sound horse and has really matured over the last couple of years. He seems to get stronger with each preparation.”
No Escape’s victory yesterday lifted his career record to eight wins and 10 placings from 38 starts, and his prizemoney earnings to just over $280,000. Not bad at all for a $1500 buy!
Croft’s previous success with No Escape in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1500m) at Rosehill on June 29 last year (also on heavy ground) was his first in town for five years since scoring with Catseye Surprise at Canterbury in June, 2014; coincidentally only 10 days after yesterday’s winner went through the sale ring.
He has been a mainstay of the Hawkesbury training ranks, having started preparing horses there in 1986.
Understandably, he is always pleased to win a race at Rosehill, where he started with the late trainer Bede Horan in 1971.
Croft rode in the last Corinthian Handicap – which was run annually for amateur jockeys at Randwick at the Bank Holiday meeting at Randwick in early August – in 1973, and rode work at Hawkesbury in the 1970s with another current day trainer Garry White.
“I’ve got 12 horses in work at present and that’s a manageable number,” Croft said. “I would like to have a few more, but getting staff is a problem.
“I even ride some of them work, but I’m getting too old for that.
“No Escape has pulled up well, and hopefully we can find another suitable race for him in a couple of weeks.”
And find another wet track as well!
. HOOFNOTE: No Escape was Croft’s third winner this season. He trained Hawkesbury’s first winner of the 2019-20 racing year when Rose Of War was successful at Forbes on August 5; his fourth winner from the past six runnings of the annual Cup meeting.
. Hawkesbury trainers had three seconds at today’s Muswellbrook meeting.
Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard went close in the opening two races with Moinda ($9.50) and Ellebeedee ($8.50), and Mitchell and Desiree Kearney nearly produced an upset in the closer with $31 outsider Magic Talent.