Reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year Sharp ‘N’ Smart got his preparation back on track at Ellerslie on Sunday when running third behind glamour mare Legarto in the Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic Preview (1400m).
Trainers Graeme and Debbie Rogerson had lofty spring plans for the son of Redwood, which were curtailed after a veterinary examination revealed he had a viral infection following his subpar run in the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at Hastings in September.
He failed to flatter when a distant last in his resuming Open 1100m trial at Tauranga earlier this month, but bounced back and silenced a few of his doubters with his performance over the weekend.
“Everyone had written him off after his barrier trial, but it was only 1100m and he never got warmed up. We gave him a couple of hard hit-outs after that and he has certainly improved,” Graeme Rogerson said.
“I am very happy with the way he went yesterday (Sunday), he is not a 1400m sprinter. He had a good hit-out, Bailey (Rogerson, jockey) said he had a good blow.
“He is on his way up for sure. He is a big horse and he is a year older, he will certainly improve. Legarto is a very fit horse compared to him.”
Sharp ‘N’ Smart will now return to Ellerslie on Saturday-week for the inaugural running of the $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) where he will meet Legarto once more, before attempting to defend his crown in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa next month.
“I am looking forward to the next round in two weeks and I think he will be at his peak for the Herbie Dyke. He will then head to the New Zealand Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) and then over to Australia.”
Australia has been a happy hunting ground for Sharp ‘N’ Smart, having won the Gr.1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and G.3 Gloaming Stakes, and runner-up in the Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m) as a spring three-year-old.
“He is either going to Sydney for the Queen Elizabeth (Gr.1, 2000m) and Tancred (Gr.1, 2400m), or to Melbourne for the Australian Cup (Gr.1, 2000m),” Rogerson said.
“We will throw a nomination in for Hong Kong, he has been inoculated as he was going to go last month, but we will just play everything by ear.”
Sharp ‘N’ Smart is set to be met in the Herbie Dyke Stakes by stablemate Just As Sharp, who will also head to the Karaka Millions meeting next week to contest the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Million 3YO (1600m).
The $145,000 New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sale purchase has shown a lot of promise to date, winning three of his six starts, including the Listed Trevor & Corallie Eagle Memorial 3YO (1500m).
He finished eighth in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on Saturday, but Rogerson expects improved results in his next two runs.
“I think Just As Sharp will run well,” he said. “He had no luck at Wellington on Saturday, Ryan (Elliot, jockey) said he got hit in behind when turning for home, but he hit the line well. I think he is our Derby horse.”
Meanwhile, Rogerson will take three horses to Te Rapa’s Wednesday meeting, with Chaource and Rocky Balboa set to contest the Race A Horse With Te Akau Mile (1600m), while Enterprise Gem will line-up in the Legens Day – February 10 Mile (1600m).
“I think Chaource is a good filly in the making. She is a half-sister to Mascarpone,” Rogerson said.
“Enterprise Gem went to Christchurch and went huge on the first day and didn’t back up on the second day (New Zealand Cup Week). She will run a hell of a race.”
– NZ Racing Desk