Kosciusko winner named as country horse of year finalist
RACING: Belflyer is leading Clarence Valley thoroughbred trainer John Shelton's favourite horse and he would name it Horse of the Year in a heart beat.
Luckily for Shelton there are other judges who agree with him, at least to the extent of making the eight-year-old gelding a finalist in the 2019 Country and Provincial Racing Awards Horse of the Year category.
Tongue in cheek, Shelton said he thought Belflyer should win it by a mile after winning the richest race open to country horses, the $1.3million Kosciusko at Randwick last October.
"I love that horse,” Shelton said. "The other horses (Victorem and Noble Boy) are good horses, but he's something special.”
Shelton said Belflyer's win over Victorem in the Kosciusko should count in his favour, even though injury had not allowed him to have a crack at this year's Ramornie Handicap.
"They've only met once and he smashed him,” Shelton said.
"And he beat him in the biggest race.”
He said Belflyer had then won a race in Brisbane, giving him two city wins in two races.
Should Belflyer get the nod from the judges on October 4, it would lift Shelton in the upper echelons of country racing.
"I've never trained a horse that's won it,” he said. "It would certainly put me up there with some good trainers.
"But I'd mainly be happy for the owners. They've done everything right with him.”
Shelton has targeted the gelding at defending his Kosciusko crown at Randwick in October and has him back in work.
"He's been back three weeks and he's fine,” he said.
"The injury he had was not a tendon injury, but the sheath around it, so it only took some keyhole surgery to fix.”
He said horse has bounced back to his best.
"To tell the truth I can't tell the difference between him now and two years ago,” he said.
"He's bouncing around like a two-year-old and can't wait to get over to the track to do his work.
"Some horse you have to hunt them up or drag them to the track. With him it's like he's saying, 'come on, let's go'.”
The Clarence Valley also has two jockeys vying for the jockey of the year title - Ben Looker and Matt McGuren.
Shelton said he has a soft spot for Looker, who did his apprenticeship at his stable and rode nearly 100 winners for him.
"But they're both great riders and really, you'd be happy to have either of them on one of your horses,” he said.
The other two finalists in the category were Greg Ryan and Mathew Cahill.