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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis

IF ONLY THAT TRIAL WAS A RACE?


OCTOBER 16, 2023: TERRY Croft can only think about it – and dream!

The Hawkesbury trainer doesn’t need any reminding about a barrier trial at his home track on the morning of July 18 last year.

The reason? He is one of a select few trainers to have ever beaten $20m The Everest winner Think About It, now unconquered at his last nine starts.

Croft’s Jeune Dreamon (Rachel King) led throughout to hold off a late surging Think About It (Tyler Schiller) in a 1000m Maiden trial that day.

“We went in different directions after that to try to win our first race (and both horses started favorite in their respective races),” Croft said.

Think It Over 12 days after the trial put the first of his 11 wins on the board in a Kembla Grange Maiden Plate (1200m), and so began what has developed into a remarkable career.

Croft is a regular visitor to the annual Forbes Cup meeting, and took Jeune Dreamon there the day after Think About It’s breakthrough, for a 1300m Maiden Handicap.

His gelding was backed from $6 to $2.90, and led before finishing second to Money Not My God, who had taken 20 starts to shed his maiden status.

Jeune Dreamon needed another 10 runs before winning his first race in an Orange Maiden Handicap (1290m) on February 11 this year, scrambling home in the last bound or two.

“I told his owner beforehand that he was going win, lose or draw,” Croft said. “I didn’t want him wasting any more money.

“It was a pretty ordinary race at Orange, and that was the horse’s last run for me.”

Jeune Dreamon subsequently was transferred to Kempsey trainer Julie Lynch, and is yet to have his first start for her.

Such are the vagaries of racing that the gelding’s prizemoney currently stands at $30,425, whilst Think It Over’s Everest triumph – he has been beaten only once in 12 starts – sent his earnings soaring to nearly a staggering $11m.

That aside, Croft is hoping he can get his Group 3 placegetter Kandos Cosmos back to racing again after a tendon injury prevented him from having a crack with the horse at the ATC Derby (2400m) at Royal Randwick earlier this year.

Kandos Cosmos was luckless at Eagle Farm last December when third in the Grand Prix Stakes (2100m), beaten by Kovalica (who won this year’s Queensland Derby at Eagle Farm and almost snatched the recent Epsom Handicap at Randwick from stablemate Rediener) and Noah ‘N’ A Deel (subsequently third in this year’s Queensland Oaks at Eagle Farm before winning a 2137m Listed race at that track).

As if that’s not enough to make anyone ponder what might have been, Grand Prix fourth placegetter Tapildoodledo won the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill Gardens in autumn, defeating Major Beel, who then won the ATC Derby.

The Grand Prix was only Kandos Cosmos’ seventh start, and is back with Croft, who does not anticipate he will have him ready to return to the races until late in the year or early next year.

“He has been spending some time on the water walker, and then will do some trotting and cantering,” Croft said.

“His tendon has been scanned and so far everything is good, but there’s a fair way to go yet.”

Never one to let himself get concerned about past occurrences, Croft is looking ahead to a more immediate target – Randwick on Tuesday, November 7.

He has two horses, Royalzel and Just A Brother, eligible for the $3m The Big Dance (1600m) that day.

Royalzel (who races in the same colours as Kandos Cosmos for owner Mal Russell) ran second at $61 in the Mudgee Cup last December, and finished third to Just A Brother, who won the Forbes Cup in early August at $26.

The stablemates each have had one run since. Royalzel ran sixth to Body Bob (runner-up at Randwick last Saturday) in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1300m) on the Kensington track on October 4, and Just A Brother was third to Dubbo Cup winner Iknowastar in a Benchmark 78 Handicap (1400m) at the same meeting.

“Royalzel will run in either a Midway Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m) at Hawkesbury on Thursday or the Big Dance Wildcard (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday,” Croft said.

“Just A Brother will go to a Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1400m) at Randwick.”

Though having a runner in a $3m race such as The Big Dance is nothing to be sneezed at, Croft is ever a realist and says he would be happy if both his horses instead contest the $750,000 Little Dance (1600m) the same day, feeling that is a more suitable assignment.

. HOOFNOTE: Coincidentally, Poppy’s Girl, narrowly beaten by Jeune Dreamon at Orange in February, finally broke through for her first win yesterday in a 1410m Maiden at the same track at her 20th start.

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