Adored 11-year-old ‘going enormous’ ahead of Canberra mission

Sky Mission. Photo: Racing photography.

In this day and age, most 11-year-old thoroughbreds are enjoying retirement, or the next chapter of their ‘off the track’ careers. 

For the Rob Potter trained Sky Mission, the old stager isn’t having any bar of life in the paddock, with the Alert gelding at home in the stables and on the racetrack. 

“He looks like a dead set five-year-old, squealing and carrying on and just loving life,” Potter said. 

“He is in a good place at the moment.”

Sky Mission will target the 1080m TAB Federal at Canberra on Friday, and after drawing gate one and the services of stable apprentice Damon Budler, Potter said his old boy would be in for a big show. 

“He is the oldest horse racing around at the moment, but he is still going enormous,” Potter said. 

“Barrier one is a good advantage. He is a speed horse, and he actually drops five kilos, and he is going as good as he could possibly go.”

The much-loved Canberra galloper has been retired twice, but Sky Mission had his own plans, hanging around at the gate while in the paddock, wanting only for a return to the stables and the track. 

“He has never had an issue, he has been retired twice, but he was hanging around the gate and wanted to come back in,” Potter said. 

“The lady that owns him, she adores him. He has been very well looked after, so we decided to bring him back in again.”

After a 58-week spell, Sky Mission returned with a third placing at Wellington on May 30 before running away with a comfortable victory over the 1080m at Canberra last start, blitzing his rivals by nearly three lengths in the Benchmark 60 Handicap. 

Potter has been blown away by the 57-start veteran, suggesting he is going as good as he was when he debuted as a highly touted three-year-old way back in 2014.

“This time in, he is going as good as he was when he started as a three-year-old,” Potter said. 

“His work is great; in his jumps outs, he is annihilating them and my apprentice Damo (Damon Budler), he knows how to ride him.”

This will be Sky Mission’s last preparation, with the health of the 10-time winner the stable and owner’s main concern. 

“This prep will be his last go, we don’t know what we will do with him, or how many starts he will have, but he will have a good life,” Potter said. 

The Canberra trainer could be in for a big day on his home track with fellow last-start winner Costa Chin Chin backing up in the 1750m Benchmark 60 Handicap. 

The seven-year-old was an impressive winner over the 1800m at Gundagai on Monday, winning by three lengths in the Benchmark 58 Handicap.

“He is coming to the end of his prep, but he is not saying that with his work,” Potter said. 

“He has had 10 starts on heavy tracks but he is getting better and better.”

The 32-start veteran has three career victories, but he is a winner two times in his last six outings, and Potter explained that he had finally worked out his Von Costa De Hero gelding.

“His work is like a good sprinter, but his racing pattern is different. He jumps, misses it by three or four lengths, but now we don’t hustle him because we know he will tack on himself,” Potter said. 

“Now we have it all worked out. At Gundagai, that was the first time we had put him over ground, and I know he is a seven-year-old, but it looks like he might get over further.”

The short back up doesn’t worry Potter, who believes Costa Chin Chin will relish the synthetic surface at Canberra. 

“He has pulled up great, it’s not an overly strong race, he works on this track like a jet, he is a wet tracker, but I have no qualms on synthetic and I think he will be right in the race,” Potter said.

The Potter stable has been in good form of late, which coincides with stable apprentice, Damon Budler, starting the 2021/22 season on fire, booting home three winners across meetings at Forbes and Gundagai on Sunday and Monday. 

“He is a really good apprentice, he just makes a few mistakes, but that’s what apprentices do, and I’ve been taking my time with him,” Potter said. 

“I believe he will get to the provincials.  He follows his instructions to a tee, and we have a good strike rate together.”

A return to racing at Canberra will be welcomed by local trainers including Potter, after they missed their meeting on July 23, and the in-form trainer was confident the track would hold up to the eight-race-program. 

“The club has been doing an outstanding job to get racing going here,” Potter said. 

“I walked it this morning and the synthetic is in good order, we had a few issues a while back, but it’s good now and Sky Mission, he is our pet, he is like a kid to us, and I wouldn’t run him on that track if I was worried at all.”

Racing at Canberra kicks off at 12.25pm and punters can get involved, with the Thoroughbred Park member’s tipping competition currently sitting at a whopping $42,000