Schmidt looks to stable Star for carnival glory
IT'S been a torrid six months for Dwayne Schmidt since his racehorse Sir Racha Force was killed on January 23 when a tree crushed its stable in a wild storm.
The Grafton trainer has landed just six winners from his past 100 starts, compared to a career strike rate of 11 per cent.
So it's fitting that Hyperion Star carries all the hopes of Grafton in today's $80,000 Tursa Grafton Guineas. With two wins from his past three starts, the three-year-old gelding has almost singlehandedly kept up the spirits at Schmidt's stables in recent months.
"He's done nothing but please us. He's been a good little horse for us since we bought him," Schmidt said.
Locally trained, and with a bevvy of local owners including Schmidt's wife Tahaila Schmidt, Hyperion Star will have plenty of followers trackside at 3.24pm as the Clarence River Jockey Club welcomes members and owners to its Ramornie Handicap race day.
"Being the only Grafton-trained horse in the field is a privilege just to get into it," Schmidt said.
"He's won two out of his last three and only got beat half a length in his last start, so he deserves his chance in the field for local owners.
"He's probably had enough and looking for the paddock, but we're going to send him around and he's on his own track, anything can happen."
Hyperion Star won a maiden over 1100m at Armidale on May 26 followed by a 1430m Class One on a heavy nine at Grafton on June 11. Then as $2.80 favourite he was unable to haul in Colt Prosser trained winner Prince of Troy ($7) and edged out by Edward O'Rourke trained Group Think ($6.50) in the run to the line when third in the Grafton Guineas Prelude (1420m) on the opening day of the July Carnival on June 26.
"The winner had a very soft run in front and nothing was there to take him on," Schmidt said.
"(Hyperion Star) got out at the right time and had his chance to win, but I think he's looking for the 1600.
"He just never had that dash on him at the 1400 where hopefully he'll have a bit more dash in him in a 1600.
"It's a different field and he'll need to improve a bit, and he's probably on the downside - win, lose or draw he'll go for a spell."
Hyperion Star is one of four runners from the Benchmark 66 field for the Prelude taking the steep rise to a Quality field for the Guineas. Hyperion Star ($34), Prince of Troy ($34) and Group Think ($20) as well as Bear The Crown ($151) are all considered rough chances by Ladbrokes.
Meanwhile Matthew Dunn-trained Ready To Humble ($4.80) is among several highly fancied runners, to be ridden from barrier one by home track hero Matthew McGuren who produced the gelding's maiden victory in his previous outing at Grafton on March 31.
Schmidt will have Savanna Jeune line up in the first race at 12.29pm, the $30,000 Group 1 Horse Feed Fillies and Mares Class 2 Showcase Handicap over 1100m.
"She's another locally owned horse by Greg Harvison and David Blumberg, so it's a pleasure for them to have a runner here at their home cup meeting," he said. "She'll acquit herself ok."
Jockey Andrew Adkins will ride both Schmidt's charges today.
While he had no runners accepted for the strong fields on Grafton Cup Day, Schmidt has Onset and Haven Road nominated for Maclean Cup Day on Sunday, both coming off narrow losses on South Grafton Cup Day last Sunday.
"We were a bit unlucky last Sunday," Schmidt said. "We had two seconds - got beaten a long head and a head - so fingers crossed things turn around.
"But it only gets harder from here on in I guess, but we're here and we're having a crack."
Schmidt is hopeful his turn of phrase does not ring true for the long term beyond the carnival, for both himself and the racing industry as a whole.
"It's been a tough 12 months," he said.
"We had a rough time. We lost a horse in the storm, and run into some bushfires and smoke, drought.
"It's just lucky that Racing (NSW) has kept it going (throughout COVID-19).
"It's a credit to the racing officials and Peter V'Landys and the stewards that's kept everything in order and, fingers crossed, we haven't had one COVID case in racing. It's been an enormous achievement for them to do that, especially in New South Wales.
"We've had a loss of income in a few places, took a prizemoney cut, but as long as we could keep racing that was the main thing.
"It can only get better from here on in, surely the next 12 months can't be as bad as the last 12."
The road back to normality is ain full swing, with owners allowed back to the track and restricted numbers in the Members Bar at the CRJC for the first time on June 26, while up to 1500 patrons - or one quarter capacity - expected to file in today and tomorrow.
"It's just great," Schmidt said.
"Last Sunday's meeting, it was good just to see a few familiar faces, you know.
"It had become a bit boring going to the races."