High-rolling hurdler back to his best at Te Rapa

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  • May 06, 2024
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Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
5 May 2024

Talented hurdler English Gambler extended his impressive front-running record over the fences in Saturday’s Modern Transport Group Hurdle (2800m) at Te Rapa.

The Lauren Brennan-trained son of Casino Prince has a reputation for putting a sizable margin on his rivals early, and the restricted-open contest proved no different as he extended his lead to near 20 lengths by the winning post on their first occasion.

Regular jockey Hamish McNeill was able to steady the nine-year-old down the back straight, and after resuming a slick pace at the 800m, was too strong and held out a game Mont Ventoux by 1 ¼ lengths.

The victory was English Gambler’s fourth over the hurdles in twelve starts, with his most impressive to date a dominant performance in the open hurdle on Pakuranga Hunt Day last August, warranting his $2.00 TAB favouritism.

Cambridge-based Brennan was pleased with the effort post-race, particularly under the 70.5kg top-weight.

“His gallops have been really solid and he hasn’t really put a foot wrong,” Brennan said.

“He jumped really well today, he hasn’t schooled this time in so that was his first for the whole season.

“I wasn’t sure about the weight, I took the saddle back and nearly needed a wheelbarrow, but the horse has been training really well.

“Hamish has ridden him enough times that he knows his quirks, and knows what he can and can’t do on him.”

English Gambler’s pace in front has also proved his Achilles heel when contesting the longer staying efforts in the likes of the Great Northern Hurdle (4200m), and Brennan indicated she will be wary of that this preparation.

“We just take it race by race with him, we know he doesn’t stay much further than 3200m and we want a half-decent track for him. We’ll just see what weather conditions come up and go from there,” she said.

“We’ll probably incorporate a few flat runs between jump races, because they’ll probably be few and far between. He can go on the flat over ground.”

McNeill has mixed his jumping commitments with riding on the flat in recent seasons, and had plenty of confidence in the gelding’s ability over the shorter distance.

“Just look at what he did in the Pakuranga last year, especially over 2800m on a good track,” McNeill said.

“He’d switched off by the top of the straight once he’d jumped the first. I was surprised how far they let me get in front when I looked back at the winning post, but he’s a machine of a horse.

“The last came up really long, but he took a short one instead of taking off last he did last year.

“It’s just a shame he can’t see a trip out, but you never know what could happen this year, he is a year older.”

English Gambler was bred by New South Wales-based nursery Stratheden Stud, and was originally a $34,000 purchase at the 2016 Magic Millions Yearling Sale out of Vinery Stud’s draft.

With 45 starts under his belt, the gelding has now accumulated 9 victories, 13 minor placings and $215,007 in stakes for Australian syndicator Roll The Dice Racing, alongside Brennan’s Monacurragh Lodge and Richard McIntosh.

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