CROFT'S PRIDE IN BEST SEASON YET
SUNDAY: June 12, 2022: TERRY Croft never lost faith in Straya Pride even though it took him 10 starts to break his maiden status.
The Denman four-year-old at Newcastle yesterday made it two wins on end at the provincials, and in the process gave his trainer three victories from his last four runners and a breakout season of 10 winners.
The latter figure bettered the long-time Hawkesbury mentor’s previous best of nine winners two seasons ago.
Croft does a great job with a small team (he keeps on average 12-15 horses in work) and was understandably pleased to see Straya Pride score again in the Benchmark 64 Handicap (1300m).
He became the fifth Hawkesbury trainer behind Brad Widdup (50), Edward Cummings (16), Claire Lever and Mitchell and Desiree Kearney (12 apiece) to reach double figures in the 2021-22 racing year.
Jockey Rory Hutchings took bad luck out of the equation by leading on Straya Pride, who started at $6.50 and never gave his rivals a chance.
He gave a good kick in the straight and had more than three lengths to spare at the post from heavily backed $2.60 favorite Optimo and Different Strokes ($6).
Straya Pride won a 1500m Maiden Plate at Port Macquarie last November at his 10th start, and was coming off a previous victory on his home track in a Class 1 Handicap (1400m) on May 19 when he came from behind.
“We had hoped to ride him off the pace again yesterday, but I told Rory not to worry if there was no speed and he did the right thing in taking up the running,” Croft said this morning.
“I wasn’t concerned as he led when he won his maiden at Port Macquarie.
“Rory rode the horse first-up this campaign when he ran second at Nowra in April on a heavy track.
“I kept telling the owners Straya Pride needed time, and he is now a bit older, a bit more mature and as a result a bit tougher.
“He is going really well at present.”
Provided Straya Pride continues to race well, he could go bush for the $50,000 Forbes Cup (1600m) at the Showcase fixture on July 31.
Croft is a regular visitor to the annual Forbes meeting and has enjoyed his share of success there, although sadly he also lost his $3 Cup favorite Vite Loni six years when he went amiss during the running of the race.
With an outstanding strike rate of seven winners from only 10 starters, it’s not surprising he is also looking at returning to Port Macquarie next Sunday for the Wauchope Cup Showcase meeting.
Whilst nominations do not close until Tuesday morning, Croft is likely to enter Just A Brother for the Wauchope Cup (1500m) and Lady Lucilla for a Class 1 Handicap (1200m).
Both won at Port Macquarie on June 2; Just A Brother in a Class 2 Handicap (1506m), and Lady Lucilla in a 1006m Maiden Plate.