SUNDAY: August 7, 2022: STEVE O’Halloran’s resilience can never be questioned.
It’s been a tough time for the experienced horseman, but he is now on the board from his new training base at Hawkesbury.
His breakthrough winner arrived at Newcastle yesterday in the shape of lightly-raced four-year-old Martini Crusader ($15), who downed fancied pair, Michael Freedman’s Bunker Hut ($2.90 favorite) and Chris Waller’s Galifianakis ($3.40) in the Maiden Plate (1400m).
Apprentice Zac Lloyd had the gelding quickly on the march from an awkward draw to settle second behind The Percentage, then took over on straightening.
After gaining a handy break, he was never threatened and had nearly two and a half lengths to spare at the post in a performance which promised even better things ahead.
Martini Crusader began his career in Melbourne with leading trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, and found his way to Hawkesbury courtesy of a link to O’Halloran’s lengthy association with racing’s first lady Gai Waterhouse.
“I spent 17 years with Gai, and knew Chris Hay’s Pulse Racing Thoroughbreds syndicate,” O’Halloran explained this morning.
“Martini Crusader had five starts in Victoria for two country placings, and some of the owners wanted to move him on, and others didn’t.
“Chris’ son Cameron rang and asked if I would be interested in training him, and both of them came out to Hawkesbury to look at my stables and have a chat.
“They were prepared to take a punt, and I was certainly prepared to do my best with Martini Crusader.
“I told them that if I couldn’t get him going, I wouldn’t waste their money.
“Martini Crusader seemed to lack a bit of confidence in his races, and my plan was to start with a blank canvas and get him happy.
“He is a very straight forward horse, and I trialled him once at Hawkesbury in June and then ran him at Wyong last month (July 19) when he was a bit unlucky in finishing second over 1200m.
“Martini Crusader’s work had been really good since, and I was pretty confident that he would run well going up to 1400m at Newcastle.”
O’Halloran took out his licence in 2020 when approached by Paul Fudge’s Waratah Thoroughbreds to train at his state-of-the-art property (now owned by RacingNSW) in the Southern Highlands.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to train on my own at such a magnificent facility, but unfortunately Paul’s illness forced him to put the property on the market last year,” O’Halloran said.
“Obviously, having a wife and three children, it wasn’t ideal being out of work, and I had to start again from scratch setting up at Hawkesbury.
“Mark Newnham, whom I knew whilst working with Gai, has been a big help giving me some pre-trainers and I am very appreciative of his support.
“I’ve now got 10 horses of my own in training, and a number of pre-trainers, and it was terrific to get that win on the board yesterday for a great group of owners.
“As well as Martini Crusader, I have another four-year-old Superargo, who has been placed at four (three of them at the provincials) of his five starts.”
O’Halloran trained eight winners during his brief period with Waratah Thoroughbreds; his first being Riot Act at Nowra in July, 2020 and Lost Impact the last at Hawkesbury in March last year.
“I enjoy training at Hawkesbury, and now that we are off the mark, hopefully there will be more winners in this new season,” he said.