Craig Clegg enjoying good run with ‘cheap buys’

Kootingal trainer Craig Clegg is enjoying a good run of results.

Once a leading harness trainer out of Tamworth, who trained and drove winners nationwide, Craig Clegg has since made a name for himself as an excellent boutique thoroughbred trainer.

Based 20 minutes out from Tamworth at Kootingal, Clegg keeps ten or so in work at a time, and he’s stumbled across some ‘cheap buys’ that have notched up some good wins in recent times. 

At Gunnedah on Tuesday, Vascotto was missed by punters, and going around as a 40/1 shot, the five-year-old landed a cheeky win after a blanket finish in the 1000m Benchmark 58 Handicap. 

Ridden by Ben Looker, Vascotto won by 0.01 of a length from the Theresa Stair-trained Just Jacky (Kelsey Lenton, $9), while in a dead heat for third, the Brett Cavanough-trained Clifton Springs (Dylan Bennett, $2.15) and Scott Singleton-trained Shikanic (Mikayla Weir, $4.20) were only 0.05 of a length behind the winner. 

“I wasn’t confident until they put the number up,” Clegg laughed when asked if he knew he had won the race as Vascotto greeted the judge first. 

“I was happy with the run, and when the number went up, it was happy days.”

Vascotto is now a three-time winner from 20 starts, but it was her first win for Clegg, who only paid $4,000 for The Factor mare out of Kanyini. 

“Look, we bought her of Gayna Williams through Inglis, and Gayna said to me, ‘she’ll turn up there, not a big bulky mare, but she’s not a dud’,” Clegg said. 

“Then I ran into Choc (Anthony) Cavallo, and he said if I get her right, she is pretty good, and he was pretty spot on.”

It took some time to get the mare right, but Clegg looks to be onto a decent one. 

“At the first run I gave her, she went reasonable but went off the boil, and there was something not right,” Clegg said. 

“I changed a few things around, and it took a while to get her right, and then at Armidale, she stayed in the gates, and I took her home and wondered what had happened there. 

“We had to trial her after that run, so we changed things up again, and Ben (Looker) rode her in a trial, and she went pretty nice, and I said to Ben at Gunnedah on Tuesday, if she lives up to that trial run, she’ll give a bit cheek, and I was confident she would perform well.”

Vascotto isn’t the only pony paying the bills in Clegg’s stable, with The Affirmative racing well of late.

The five-year-old only cost connections $2,700, but she’s won three in nine starts for the stable.

Most recently, she strung together back-to-back wins at Gunnedah and Armidale in March before finishing an excellent fourth when beaten only 2.17 lengths in the John Clifton Memorial 1000m sprint at Tamworth last month. 

“She was another one that came to us from Inglis, and she was only a cheapie,” Clegg said. 

“She was in the paddock and was spelling when we bought her, so I started from scratch with her, and because she hadn’t raced for 12 months, I had to barrier trial her, and Grant Buckley rode her at Scone, and she won the trial.

“Then she came out and won, then put in a couple of ordinary runs, but she’s won a couple, and at Tamworth last start, she finished fourth, and Buckley got off and said to me, it was a big lift in grade, she went enormous, and that whatever you’re doing, don’t change.”

Clegg’s team is going well, but he had no major plans for his in-form pair. 

“I haven’t got anything planned for her (Vascotto); I always bring my horses home and give them a bit of time after a run,” Clegg said. 

“I train some of them out of paddocks and put them in a paddock for a few days after a race, assess them afterwards, and go from there.  

“I let the horses tell me how they are feeling.”

Clegg didn’t take all the praise when discussing his team’s recent run, and he stressed that it was a team effort. 

“We’ve got happy and fit horses, and they get worked every day,” Clegg said. 

“We’ve got a little track at home, a sand arena, and we take them to Tamworth on gallop days.

“Mick Squires; he’s riding work for me, and my partner Kim Parkins; she owns the horses and helps at the stable, and I have 11 in work at the moment and couldn’t do it without them.”

Clegg will hope the good run continues at Quirindi on Monday, with Agent Of Chaos entered in the 1200m Benchmark 58 Handicap. 

For Gundagai’s results, click here

For Quirindi’s nominations, click here.