The Norm Gardner stable kept up its sensational run of form at Hawkesbury’s midweek meeting on Wednesday, with Delacour making it back-to-back wins when taking out the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1100m) for mares four years old and up.
Ridden by Hannah Williams, who coincidently won her first metropolitan race, the Canberra mare only carried 57kg after the apprentice’s three-kilogram claim.
After stepping smartly from barrier three, the pair travelled nicely in behind the early leaders before Delacour ($7) unleashed a devastating finish to win the $55,000 event, beating the Paul and Martha Cave-trained Bowery Breeze (Ellen Hennessey, $5.50) by 0.47 of a length and in third and 0.96 of a length back was the Tracey Bartley-trained Compassionate (Rachel King, $2.70).
Although a terrific last-start winner in the $80,000 Quality Sprint (1000m) during Canberra’s Black Opal Stakes two-day carnival, Delacour was more or less unwanted in the betting at Hawkesbury, and Gardner couldn’t understand why.
“She went outstanding,” Norm Gardner said.
“I couldn’t believe that not one person picked her in the top four because she is going great.”
Following 31 career starts, the five-year-old has won eight times and placed on a further 12 occasions, earning over $250,000 in prizemoney, and Gardner believes his mare has found the same form that saw her win four straight races back in late 2020.
“As a three-year-old, she won four straight, and you know what mares are like; they stay like that, and she is getting back to her best,” Gardner said.
There is a not-so-secret reason behind her recent success, with a new trackwork rider helping the mare settle, making all the difference on race days.
“She is a hard-going mare, and she pulls very hard on the track,” Gardner said.
“We have a new trackwork rider, Marty Guenther, and he has got her under control, and she is working within herself a lot more and not leaving it all on the track.
“She can really overdo it, and we’ve reigned her in, and she has that spring back in her legs on race day.”
All going well, Delacour will head to Wagga on April 23 before being set for the $200,000 Wagga Town Plate on May 4.
“She still over-raced a little bit yesterday, but I’d like to go to the Wagga Town Plate Prelude, and if she can settle in the Prelude, we will press on to the Wagga Town Plate,” Gardner said.
The Canberra yard has been in flying form of late, with youngsters such as Destructive Diva and Miss Ghent both impressing on debut last month, and Gardner has a high opinion of the latter.
“Miss Ghent could be the best horse I’ve ever trained,” Gardner said.
“She is in the paddock here now, but to do all that at her first run was incredible.
“Three months ago, she was bucking in a big stock saddle, so I think she can be really special.”
Gardner will race at home on Good Friday, and he hopes enigmatic galloper Super Riff can finally live up to his ability in the 1400m Class Two Handicap.
‘He’s got a lot of ability, but he works like Tarzan and races like Jane,” Gardner laughed.
“Tomorrow, I am hoping with the three weeks between runs, not having to travel, and with the low weight, we can get the best out of him.”
For Canberra’s Good Friday fields, click here.