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  • Writer's pictureJohn Curtis


MONDAY: August 8, 2022: WHEN Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan-Attard were given a raw unraced three-year-old colt to train, there was only a single regret.

It was that they didn’t get him earlier and, being unhandled and a “bit colty”, he had to be gelded.

The upside was that the Hawkesbury couple knew plenty about this young horse’s family and now, as an early five-year-old, Sovereign Express is a $3.10 favorite with on his home track tomorrow to ring up a hat-trick, stepping up to 1800m in the De Bortoli Wines Benchmark 64 Handicap.

Talented heavyweight jockey Rory Hutchings, fresh from a Newcastle double last Saturday, is going along for the ride, having partnered the gelding in his recent wins; a 1400m Newcastle Maiden Plate on June 25 and 1600m Class 1 Handicap at Wyong on July 19.

“We broke in Sovereign Express and did all his early education with him at our farm at Grose Vale,” Jason Attard said this morning.

“Because he didn’t come to us earlier, it was always going to take longer to get him going and he didn’t start racing until an early four-year-old.

“Rory rode Sovereign Express on debut at Orange in September last year when he ran a terrific race, and then he pulled up shin sore after his second start at Hawkesbury in October.

“We gave him a good break after that, and it has been the makings of the horse.

“We’re still feeling our way with him, but his two wins have been good and I’m sure he will eventually handle up to 2000m going on the way he works, so tomorrow’s 1800m shouldn’t be a problem.”

Whereas Sovereign Express is a son of Bullet Train, Attard also prepared three of the gelding’s half-brothers Come On, Anthony’s Best and Ambrose Spirit (all by Oratorio) for breeder-owner John Kelly, and particularly recalls the latter pair.

“Anthony’s Best won two races (both at Hawkesbury) in 2015 and 2016, and also was placed over 2000m at Randwick,” he said.

“Ambrose Spirit didn’t have many runs either and was placed on a couple of occasions.

“He sustained a bad tendon injury when runner-up to Lord Disick (who subsequently won two races at Randwick and ran in the 2016 Group 3 Newcastle Cup) in a 2000m Class 1 Plate at Hawkesbury in December, 2015 and never raced again.”

Sovereign Express’ dam Cut A Caper won 12 races (including one in town) and races in the same colours as the trainer’s stable star Sons Of John, who won the 2015 Group 3 Hawkesbury Cup before a couple of months later, as a $31 roughie, went within a whisker of undoing Winx’s remarkable winning stretch in the Group 2 Theo Marks Quality (1300m) at Rosehill Gardens.

The now retired Sons Of John has a good home for the rest of his days at the Attard’s 15-acre Grose Vale property.

Team Attard was delighted to win nine provincial races last season, and also takes Sovereign Express’ stablemate Kozluca (Rachel King) to Hawkesbury’s opening meeting of the new season tomorrow.

The five-year-old, an Eagle Farm winner in January last year for Chris Waller, begins his second preparation for the couple, in the XXXX Gold Benchmark 64 Handicap (1500m).

“We like the horse, but he is going to be better as he gets over further ground, hence the reason we are kicking him off at 1500m,” Jason Attard said.

Eve ‘N’ Ruby (Marc Conners) and The Halo (Brad Widdup) have been withdrawn from Goulburn engagements today to contest Kozluca’s race, where dual acceptor Selfie Time (Dylan Gibbons) is the $2.70 favorite.

Trainers Richard and Will Freedman scratched Selfie Time from the Independent Liquor Group Class 1 Handicap (1300m) later on the program.

Fellow Hawkesbury trainer Mick Attard opted to run West Elk (Brock Ryan) in tomorrow’s Saddle Up For Spring 3rd Sept Maiden Plate, also bypassing today’s Goulburn meeting.

There will be no more popular result if West Elk, at his eighth start, can shed his maiden status.

Attard (not related to Jason and Lucy Attard, but known as ‘Uncle Mick’ at Hawkesbury), sustained life-threatening injuries when double-barrelled by West Elk on the morning of the first day (August 1) of last season’s calendar when he was preparing him to race at Kembla Grange that afternoon.

He subsequently underwent several operations, and his courage in the long battle to recover continues to be an inspiration to his family and all who know him.

West Elk, a $32,000 Adelaide yearling purchase in 2020, was onsold online to Attard’s wife Sharon in March last year for $13,000.

The Manhattan Rain four-year-old is yet to place, but wasn’t far away at his second start back when fifth to Pacific Warrior (second favorite for tomorrow’s 1500m Benchmark 64 Handicap) in a 1600m Wyong Maiden on July 28.

Sydney’s leading jockey James McDonald has taken four mounts – and three of them are favorites.

He rides Left Reeling ($1.80), Sir Ming ($2.50) and Communist ($2.30), along with Ceasefire ($6).

. The rail is out varying distances; 2m from the 1300m to 1100m, 4m from 1100m to 450m, and 2m from 450m to the winning post, for the seven-race card.

An improving “Soft 5” rating was posted this morning by course manager Rick Johnston.

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