Todd Smart and his team are entering a very exciting period, with his stable boasting a couple of potential stars and an extensive collection of two-year-olds.
Headlining his team is three-year-old Quality winner Love Shuck, which has won three out of six.
As a two-year-old, the Mikki Isle gelding, a $6000 purchase at the 2022 Inglis HTBA Sale, won the $200,000 Inglis Challenge at Scone in May of last year.
Love Shuck was luckless in a Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens before going for a spell in November, but he’s back in work and on track to target more races in town.
“He’s come back bigger and stronger than ever,” Smart said.
“The horse has his quirks, but he’s matured into a serious racehorse.
“He’s just started to do some pace work, and Billy (Owen) has been riding him each time, and he’ll stay with him.
“Billy and I have a good rapport, and I think we work well together, and if you have that trust with your jockey, it makes a massive difference.
“The way they are going, Love Shuck is about six weeks away, and I think we’ll lob right in the middle of the Sydney carnival.
“I’d love to win a Highway with him or some sort of Sydney race, and I think he is in for a really big preparation.”
Another star in the making could be the well-named Gundy Guy, who finished second on debut at Canberra in August.
A $50,000 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale purchase, Gundy Guy is named after Smart’s hometown of Gundagai and has many local owners and a cult following.
“Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have run him that day, and he probably wasn’t ready,” Smart conceded.
“Ability goes a long way, and he still ran well on debut, and this preparation, I think we’ll see a nice horse, and this time next year, maybe a Country Championships horse.
“Right now, he is a long way from that, but he has shown us good ability, and I think he is good enough to knock his maiden off pretty quickly.
“Billy has been riding him every gallop this preparation, and I’m trusting his opinion, and if all goes to plan, we could put a nom (nomination) in next week for Wagga or one of those meetings.”
Unfortunately, stable stalwart Kelvedon Road suffered an injury setback and won’t be seen at the races until later in the year.
The five-year-old is a five-time winner with loads of ability, but injuries and mishaps have plagued his career.
“He’ll be back, and it’s not career-ending, but we won’t see him for a few months,” Smart said.
“He’ll go out for a good spell and come back, and we know the horse well enough now, and next preparation, I’m confident he can overcome those little issues.”
After a hot run of results in late 2023, the Canberra stable hasn’t had a lot of starters over the summer period, with Smart and his team busy with a dozen two-year-olds.
“We bought the most yearlings last year that we’ve ever bought, and we hope to buy again this year, and once they are up and going, it’s going to be very exciting,” Smart said.
“A lot of horses have gone shin sore, but we’ve got some up and going, and it’s always nice to have well-bred horses coming through.”
The stable unleashed Spritzy Lass in an 800m trial at Goulburn on Tuesday, and the two-year-old Exceedance filly impressed followers with Jeff Penza in the saddle, finishing third behind the talented Beer Baron from the Neil Osborne hard.
“Last year, we bought Love Shuck at the HTBA Sale, and we bought a nice filly (Spritzy Lass) at this year’s sale, and she is the first one we’ve trialled,” Smart said.
“If she is good and eats up well after the trial, she might go to Canberra and race, but if she doesn’t handle it, she’ll go to the paddock for a couple of weeks.
“She gives me the same feeling as Love Shuck, and she’ll target that same race (Inglis Challenge) in May.”
When asked about his recent success purchasing yearlings, Smart praised Peter Twomey from Wattle Bloodstock.
“I’ve used a bloodstock agent in Peter Twomey, and we’ve got a good system in place,” Smart said.
“We try and pick cheapish horses, and we’ve got to choose those horses he sends us; we do all the checks and everything, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
Smart, with the advice of Twomey, will be targeting the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale, which is on from February 11-13.