Henley steers Hotel Drive towards July Carnival
COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS: Grafton trainer Scott Henley has made the executive decision to not run 4yo gelding Hotel Drive in the upcoming Country Championship qualifier at Grafton next month.
Instead he is aiming the experienced stayer at a dream win for owners in the Ramornie Handicap this year.
"I work it out this way, three of the blokes who own the horse have been coming to Grafton carnival for 32 years," Henley said. "For 32 years they only had two runners in the Grafton carnival for two losses until last year when they got their first win with Glimmer and they went absolutely nuts.
"They are really big Grafton supporters and I think if they have a horse who is a crack at the Ramornie then we should go for it."
For Henley the decision means giving up a chance at running in a $300,000 feature race at Royal Randwick and it was not an easy one to make.
"It was probably the hardest decision I have made in my 18 months of training," Henley said. "The owners, they are all middle class people, they aren't battlers, they were happy to bypass the Country Championships for a chance at Ramornie."
Hotel Drive is coming off a strong showing in Doomben after he took out the No Metro Wins Handicap last month. The win made it Hotel Drive's third victory on the trot, which Henley said was unsurprising for many at the track.
"Every man and his dog tipped him, it was just a really big groundswell for him as soon as we hit the course," Henley said. "Everyone kept coming up to me during the day saying your horse has got it or your horse looks the goods."
"I think just about every punter there had backed him in to win. The sound as soon as he was 100m out and you could see no-one was going to catch him was just awesome.
"It's the first time he has actually gotten to show his wares. I think he is on the way to justifying the faith I had in him."
Despite his recent success Henley suggested that Hotel Drive needed another win under his hooves before he was a sure thing of making it into the Ramornie Handicap race.
"I will put him out in the paddock for a few weeks just to freshen him up before we make our push for the carnival," Henley said.
"I will be starting him in a Class 2 on the Gold Coast next month because I just don't think his rating is quite up to Ramornie level but it is really just a throw at the stumps and hope we hit sort of thing."