SATURDAY: August 12, 2023: CROSSFIRE Road is the Queen of the Valley and Mick Attard is Hawkesbury’s leading trainer in the new season!
Attard claimed that “title” when his five-year-old mare led throughout to make it two wins in a row – both at Muswellbrook – in yesterday’s Queen of the Valley Matchmaker Benchmark 66 Handicap (1280m).
She had come from behind to take a Benchmark 58 Handicap over the same route on July 30, ensuring the Hawkesbury training base cracked a record 200 winners for the 2022-23 season.
Attard is in great form, winning three races from his last four runners, and has prepared two of Hawkesbury’s four winners since August 1.
So is jockey Jean Van Overmeire, who was aboard Crossfire Road in her Muswellbrook double, in brilliant form.
After a Kembla Grange quartet last Saturday, he followed up with winners at Goulburn on Monday and Newcastle on Thursday, and then landed a treble yesterday to give him nine winners already to be the State’s leading rider in the first 11 days of the season.
Van Overmeire took yesterday’s race by the scruff of the neck, bouncing Crossfire Road ($11) out clearly in front, dictating the pace and then comfortably holding off her rivals over the last 200m.
She defeated What A Peach ($4.60) and $2.60 favorite Golden Gate to post her fourth win since being purchased online early last year for $5500 after three unplaced runs in Victoria.
“I told Jean beforehand to take a sit on Crossfire Road if something else wanted to lead, otherwise to make his own pace in front,” Attard said today.
“When she began so quickly and went straight to the lead, she was always going to be hard to run down.
“She had worked well since her previous Muswellbrook run, and I went there pretty confident she could win again.
“I told the owners they had to beat us.”
Attard is eyeing a midweek Warwick Farm race on August 30 to give Crossfire Road an opportunity to break through in town.
“It’s a 1300m Benchmark 72 Handicap against her own sex, and Jean feels she is up to midweek grade in town going on the way she is racing at present,” he said.
But first things first. Attard is looking to clinch his own maiden city success with Putt For Dough at Royal Randwick next Saturday, in a Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1200m).
Another online buy – in October last year for $5000 after an unplaced debut start at Tamworth – Putt For Dough trounced his rivals in a Benchmark 68 Handicap (1200m) at Kembla Grange last Saturday; the final winner of Van Overmeire’s quartet.
“He has trained on really well, and Jean has indicated he is keen to stay with him at Randwick if the horse continues to do well this week and we go there,” Attard said.
. HOOFNOTE: Connections chose Portland Sky to send a mare to as part of yesterday’s Queen of the Valley Matchmaker prize.
Portland Sky, who won the 2021 Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield as a three-year-old, stands at Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley.
“It turned out to be a valuable race yesterday as we can send any mare to Portland Sky, not necessarily Crossfire Road,” Attard said.