The David Smith-trained Casino Prince gelding let down with a strong and sustained run in the Class Four 1300m Country Championships preview, finding the line in fine fashion for apprentice Zac Wadick to beat the Brett Robb-trained Great Buy (Michael Heagney) and the fast-finishing Tags (Anthony Cavallo) from the Gayna Williams yard.
“He is a super horse,” Smith told NSW Country and Picnic Racing after the win.
“He really stepped up to the mark there yesterday and he is a very progressive sort of horse, and it was good to see him live up to that hype.”
Wadick showed some patience at Dubbo and could have easily vied for the lead after jumping well, but instead, he chose to take a sit on the leader’s tails before unleashing his charge on the home straight.
“Zac is going great for the stable and I can’t speak more highly of him,” Smith said.
“It was a very good ride.”
Smith had been toying with the idea of entering Lockdown Gamble in a TAB Highway Handicap in recent weeks, but he wanted to guarantee his galloper’s place in the Central Districts Country Championships qualifier at Mudgee on February 27.
“It was touch and go if he would gain a start there without winning, and that is why we went to Dubbo,” Smith said.
“We wanted to win that lead-up race and that is why he hasn’t been down to Sydney for one of those Highway races.
“We want to keep that confidence going.”
Smith was surprised to see his up-and-coming galloper start favourite ($3.20) at Dubbo, but he was pleased to see him perform strongly against some very handy horses.
“It was a massive step up for him, and to be honest, I was surprised to see him open up favourite,” Smith said.
“He was jumping up from a Class One to a Class Four and he was terribly unlucky at Gilgandra two starts back.
“Then we saw what he did at Bathurst when winning by four (lengths) on top of the ground, and at Dubbo, it was good to see him win well against horses that would be open class in our region.”
In an ominous sign to rivals, Smith said Lockdown Gamble was still some 12 months away from his best.
“He is a big striding, free rolling horse that loves to run, and when he has that clear run, he is always going to be tough to beat,” Smith said.
“In those conditions, when the pace is on, it suits him and I was a bit worried yesterday when he went wide on the corner, but he opened up and won well.
“He loves the pressure situations, and we saw that, but he is not mentality there yet and I would love to get him there for the final in 12 months’ time because what he is doing right now is on raw ability.”
Still, Smith believes Lockdown Gamble can win the Central Districts qualifier and make a splash in town if given the opportunity to race in the $500,000 final at Royal Randwick on April 2.
“He showed us yesterday that he is starting to learn more racing craft,” Smith said.
“He actually responded and took the one-one for Zac yesterday, and before that, he would have kept trying to charge right through the bridle and want to run.
“He is stepping up each time this preparation and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
The Mudgee Country Championship hopeful will be racing on his home track, and while Smith conceded the Gayna Williams-trained Zoo Station was the horse to beat on February 27, he believes Lockdown Gamble is equally as talented.
“It will be a great benefit racing at home. He goes straight into the race after yesterday and he just needs a good draw and he will be right in the mix,” Smith said.
“Zoo Station is the horse to beat, but just before his run at Gilgandra, they trialled together at Bathurst, and I thought he went just as well.
“Our bloke is a bit underrated because of the path I’ve chosen but he will be thereabouts given the chance.”
The Central Districts Country Championships qualifier is shaping to be one of the toughest heats in 2022, and for readers wanting more information on the series, they can click here.