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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


MONDAY: February 7, 2022: GREG Hickman so far hasn’t been able to write the same chapter with lightly-raced Packer as his stable flag-bearer Eleven Eleven.

But the Warwick Farm trainer is at least hoping he can tick off the first page by getting the three-year-old on the board when racing resumes at Hawkesbury tomorrow.

Apprentice Tyler Schiller has partnered Packer in all his three runs to date in his first racing campaign, and partners him again in the Lander Toyota Maiden Handicap (1300m).

The cleverly-named Packer, a son of Written Tycoon, this morning was a solid $2.60 fixed odds favorite with to clinch a breakthrough.

He is the second foal of the unraced Redoute’s Choice mare Angel’s Choice. Her first foal Italian Viking (by Street Boss) was runner-up at both starts at Morphettville last year.

Coincidentally, he races in a lugging bit as will Packer tomorrow.

Whereas Eleven Eleven fetched $230,000 as a yearling and has returned his ownership group a very healthy $2.86m so far (courtesy of first placings at the last three Magic Millions meetings at the Gold Coast, all at 1400m including the last two MM Cups), his younger stablemate was a $200,000 purchase, but to date his earnings are a long way short of that at $6450.

Still, there is always hope!

“Eleven Eleven has been a superstar for our stable,” Hickman said this morning.

“One of my owners bought Packer at the 2020 MM sale, and you always hope you can get them back there for the January meeting as we have done so successfully with Eleven Eleven.

“But I could have easily moved Packer on before he raced for us.

“He kept going sore, and that’s why he didn’t race as a two-year-old.

“He simply wasn’t ready, but has kept improving this time in work and his last run at Warwick Farm on Australia Day was enormous when he finished fourth in a 1400m Maiden.

“Packer got tired the last bit and was less than a length from the winner.

“He comes back 100m tomorrow and is fitter, so he should get every chance to break through.”

Hickman, who has trained 10 winners in the first half of the current season (26 in each of the last two seasons), has been successful on 31 occasions at Hawkesbury, but has had only three runners there this season for a minor placing.

As well as Packer, he also runs Good Deed (St Johns Park Bowling Club CG&E Maiden Handicap, 1100m) and Insider Trader (HTC Motel Benchmark 64 Handicap, 1300m).

The latter was withdrawn from a Muswellbrook engagement today when he drew poorly.

Apprentice Schiller also rides Good Deed ($8), whilst fellow apprentice Jackson Searle has the mount on Insider Trader ($31).

“Good Deed has been consistent placing seven times from his 12 starts,” Hickman said.

“He has drawn wide, although a few scratchings will help, and will undoubtedly take benefit from whatever he does tomorrow.

“Insider Trader has raced twice this time in, but not started since just before Christmas.

“Because of the break, I expect he will need this run.”

Just as Packer is well named, so too is topweight Selhurst Park, the firming $2.20 favorite in Good Deed’s race.

Selhurst Park, a three-year-old son of Not A Single Doubt, got his name from the home ground of English Premier League side Crystal Palace.

His dam is the More Than Ready mare Palazzo Cristallo – and he is her first foal, having brought $325,000 when sold as a yearling.

Reigning Hawkesbury trainers’ premiership winner Mark Newnham prepares Selhurst Park, and current jockeys’ premiership pacesetter Josh Parr (10 wins so far this season) rides the three-year-old.

Selhurst Park has been placed in three of his four starts and, though he hasn’t raced since last June, has won both his recent Randwick trials (870m on January 13 and 1050m 11 days later).

Parr rode him in both those hitouts, and has also been aboard in all his four racetrack appearances.

. Course manager Rick Johnston this morning posted a “Soft 6” rating for Hawkesbury’s first meeting since December 16. The track has received 34mm of rain in the last week (12mm of it in the last 24 hours up until 7.30 this morning).

The rail is in the TRUE position for the seven-race card which begins at 1.50pm.

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