SATURDAY: March 18, 2023: IT was fitting that trainer Steve O’Halloran was back in the winning list on Golden Slipper weekend.
The expatriate Irishman, who now calls Hawkesbury home, scored at Goulburn yesterday with Martini Crusader on Saint Patrick’s Day, and also on the eve of the world’s richest two-year-old race, which was run today at Rosehill Gardens.
During a 17-year stint as one of Gai Waterhouse’s valuable employees, he was associated with five of her Slipper winners; the latest being 2020 victor Farnan, which she co-trained with Adrian Bott.
And it was a connection with the famous Tulloch Lodge stable which both helped gain him Martini Crusader to train, and be able to secure yesterday’s winning rider Rachel King.
He knew Chris Hay from Pulse Racing Thoroughbreds, which manages Martini Crusader, and was asked last year if he was interested in taking over the gelding’s training after he had been placed a couple of times at Victorian country meetings.
O’Halloran also knew King well from her time at Tulloch Lodge when he was there.
He has now won two races with Pride Of Dubai four-year-old Martini Crusader, who hit winning form again in great style at Goulburn in a Benchmark 66 Handicap (1600m) at $9.50.
King had the gelding away brilliantly to lead early, before taking a sit behind front-runner and eventual third placegetter Iverson ($12).
Martini Crusader put his rivals away in the straight, scoring by two and a half lengths from $21 chance Successful Star and Iverson.
After an excellent first-up second in a Midway Class 1 Handicap (1200m) at Gosford in late January, the gelding was unplaced at his next two runs at Kembla Grange (February 7) and Newcastle (March 3).
However, O’Halloran was confident Martini Crusader could turn that around yesterday with conditions to suit.
“He just won’t let down on firmer tracks, and the Soft 5 rating at Goulburn yesterday was ideal,” O’Halloran said today.
“Rachel gave him a great ride, and he was very strong to the line.
“As a result, I won’t hesitate to step him up to 1800m if we can find a suitable race for his next start, and hopefully we get a soft track as well.”
O’Halloran has 15 horses in work at Hawkesbury, and Martini Crusader provided him with his fourth winner of the current season (and his 12th since taking up training in 2020).
A $125,000 purchase at the 2020 Inglis Classic yearling sale, Martini Crusader has been a fairly consistent performer for his connections.
Along with his two wins (both for O’Halloran, the first being at Newcastle last August), he has also been placed on seven occasions from 16 starts.