Can Mosheen return to G1 glory at Flemington?
Strapper Naima Kermarrec brushes the Robert Smerdon Mosheen at Aquanita Stables at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
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Spring racing is here. The form guide that sits inside the little paper discarded for much of the football season now lands on the coffee table instead of the bin.
Walker isn’t “Tex” from Adelaide – it’s Michael formerly of Rotorua who punches out winners across Victorian tracks.
Neither is Hall “big bad bustling” on Radio Sport National but jockey Nicholas, son of the great money rider Greg.
The Swans and Storm have won, free agency is in its infancy, the A-League is setting into first from neutral, the Wallabies all seem to be in hospital; it’s the time of year when we tune into ponies.
The equine athletes that take our focus for the next six-weeks share attributes with the footballers we have watched so closely for the past six months.
Yearlings like footballers are drafted from the annual sales. Commencing at the Gold Coast in January, spreading to Karaka in New Zealand before crossing the rest of Australia like some stadium rock band on a massive world tour.
Each year trainers speculate on picks attempting to find a youngster, the horse of their generation, to take them to a Slipper, Diamond, Derby or Oaks.
Their stories are just as vivid as any athlete to grace a field.
Mosheen was an expensive yearling, bought about by a combination of conformation, looks and pedigree. In that order.
If you were at the 2010 Easter yearling sales in Sydney and you spotted the filly by Fastnet Rock, you would need deep pockets.
How does $250,000 sound? Sold. You can almost hear the auctioneer: “Put a saddle on her back and take her to the track tomorrow”.
For the first two runs of her career including her second in the Golden Slipper, Leon Corstens put the polish on Mosheen.
A combination of natural ability from the equine and skill by the human steering aided Mosheen to her first win. Danny Nikolic played jockeys with Dwayne Dunn and won.
Mosheen travelled to Sydney for the Golden Slipper, the richest race for 2yos in the world. Only the bravest or foolhardy soul would have stepped in to take a piece of the 100/1 on offer for Mosheen in the Slipper. She surprised taking second behind Sepoy who would later become Champion colt at his two and three-year-old season.
After the Slipper, a quirk of fate landed Mosheen at the Caulfield yard of Robert Smerdon.
Sometimes a trainer is lucky, right place right time.
Smerdon knows all about luck, he took 30 years to become an overnight sensation. Now, Smerdon is so good dolphins would pay to swim with him.
For many years I penciled for a bookmaker. The old clerk, Rex, loved Smerdon horses especially when the money came. Rex would regale me with famous Smerdon stories.
“They fell out of trees to back them,” he would say. I became a convert following the stable and its success.
Smerdon oversees a team of 80 horses at his Caulfield base; another 20 are located at Ballarat – his spiritual home.
A former jockey he turned to training when the diet pills, diuretics and sweating couldn’t keep him at a race riding weight, not even for bounding over the “sticks” where weights are higher than flat racing. To look at Smerdon now it’s hard to believe he was a jockey. Not that he carries much excess weight these days.
His personal trainer sees to that. Plus in an industry filled with social occasions he doesn’t drink.
A visit to the doctor saw him diagnosed with a fatty liver. The advice was stern when it came to the grog, “anything less than one is good”.
Now he’s as dry as a wooden god.
If you have a 3yo filly capable of winning in the Melbourne spring there are two group ones on your radar. Classic races, the 1600m 1000 Guineas and the 2500m VRC Oaks.
Smerdon had a chance with Mosheen.
These races are pressure events. Add into the mix that leviathan Japanese owner breeder Katsumi Yoshida purchased a half share in Mosheen for a seven-figure sum prior to her 3yo season.
By the end of the season Mosheen stood above almost every filly in the country. Except for her kryptonite Atlantic Jewel.
In the 1000 Guineas, Atlantic Jewel ran past Mosheen like Lewis Jetta might run past an old man on a frame.
Ten days later after winning the Wakeful Stakes by seven lengths, Atlantic Jewel was sore, her next destination would be the paddock there would be no Oaks for her.
History records that Mosheen won the 2011 VRC Oaks by nine lengths the first of four group ones. The autumn was “pay dirt”, the Australian Guineas, Randwick Guineas (both against colts) and the Vinery Stakes added to her group one cabinet.
Mosheen had a chequered start to her 2012 spring campaign. A breathing problem was detected, minor surgery was required, there was a 10% chance it would not be successful. She was in the 90%.
Smerdon entered Mosheen for the Bobbie Lewis a 1200m group three up the Flemington straight six. This was a big ask, she would be top weight giving weight to men and seasoned sprinters. In the parade yard she didn’t have the glow of a healthy horse. Her coat was dull. The result matched her coat, dismal, not devastating.
Mosheen had credit in the bank, she is not a money muncher that promised so much and delivered so little. A March champion is what Jack Dyer called the footballers who shared the same traits.
Smerdon kept her to 1200m for her next start back on her home track. He resisted stepping her up in distance. He did eliminate the boys restricting her to a mare’s only race.
The tip before the race was the Darley horse Detours, three people gave it to me. I didn’t bet; mare’s races with big fields are for mugs.
Mugs are for drinking out of not for falling into. The bookmaker used to tell me that, you don’t see many bookmakers driving a Datsun 120Y. He drove a new BMW.
Mosheen disappointed, finishing fifth, three lengths behind Detours. Paul Snowden who manages the Melbourne stable for Darley was smiling. Robert Smerdon was not.
Now that we stand on the precipice of the spring, Mosheen is at the ledge. On Saturday at Flemington the once flying filly has to step up to prove the doubters wrong. The group two 1400m Blazer Stakes for mares is the objective.
The lack of speed in the Blazer is a positive for Mosheen as she should be able to slide forward from barrier six and lead without using much energy.
If Mosheen were at her peak a speed map like this would hand the race to her on a plate. However with two recent poor runs (by her standards) she is a risk.
Another poor performance would put serious doubts on the remainder of her campaign.
The feeling from the stable is that Mosheen is getting back to near her peak.
Her gallop during the week was rated one of her best in some time. Mosheen is known as a solid track worker with Smerdon able to dish the work up to her and the mare able to take it.
This Saturday we should watch and wait, keep our money safely locked away.
If she can produce a solid return in the Blazer then the next start is the day we want to be on.
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