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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


THURSDAY: October 19, 2023: EDWARD Cummings got a lightly-raced maiden on the board, and Team Attard got an underrated horse back in winning form.

The Hawkesbury trainers book-ended their home track meeting today, lifting the number of winners prepared at the provincial track so far this season to 44.

Cummings, who has his triple Group 1 winning mare Duais heading to the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley on Saturday week and talented Strait Acer on track for the $10m Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on November 4, claimed his fifth win of the season when Hard Pick ($7) broke through in the Ladies Day 9 Nov Provincial Maiden Plate (1300m).

Team Attard was just as pleased to see Sovereign Express ($7) win his first race in 14 months when he made light of his 60kg topweight to take the Richmond Club Midway Benchmark 64 Handicap (1600m).

Cummings and jockey Tyler Schiller warmed up for a Golden Eagle tilt by combining with Hard Pick, who was having only his sixth start when he swept down the outside with momentum to overhaul $2.45 favorite Brave Agenda.

An $80,000 yearling purchase last year at the Gold Coast, the Flying Artie three-year-old was beaten at Bathurst at his previous start.

“We took him there trying to win a race, and at least we now have his maiden out of the way,” Cummings said.

“Hard Pick looks to me as though he will run 2000m even though his breeding doesn’t say he will.

“There’s a nice race for him at Randwick on November 7, a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1300m) for three and four-year-olds.

“His performance there will give us a clearer guide as to where we are going with him.”

Whilst Cummings was understandably pleased to score with Hard Pick and securing Schiller for his $1m Silver Eagle runner-up Strait Acer, he was at a loss to understand how the latter’s benchmark rating could be raised 18 points to 103 after his Silver Eagle performance.

With Tommy Berry, who rode Strait Acer in his fast-closing second to Vienna Princess in last Saturday’s Silver Eagle (1300m) at Randwick, taking the mount on Epsom runner-up Kovalica, Cummings was happy to book Schiller for the rich assignment in a fortnight.

Husband and wife trainers Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard were both delighted and relieved to get Sovereign Express back into the winning list.

The now six-year-old was in a purple patch toward the end of the previous season and start of the current season, winning three races in a short space of time.

“Unfortunately he was ordinary at his last preparation,” Jason Attard said.

“We tried him in a heat of the Provincial-Midway Championships, but his form spiralled out of control, so we turned him out to start again.

“The owner was contemplating moving him on, but I convinced him to give him another opportunity.

“Now that he has struck winning form again, I’m confident he can measure up to a Midway Handicap in town.

“Rory Hutchings has been on Sovereign Express in his four wins. He’s a great rider, and we really appreciate him being part of our team.

“We have a really nice group of young horses at present; probably better than we’ve ever had.”

. HOOFNOTE: RacingNSW stewards cautioned Hutchings for not riding Sovereign Express right out to the post.

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