‘He’s a good horse’ were the words race caller, James Tait, used to describe Participator as he cantered across the line to record a dominant four-length victory in the 1200m Class One at Wagga on Friday.
The Wagga runner was under a good hold from jockey Mathew Cahill when sitting just off the leader’s heels, and when given a bit more rein, he exploded to the front, putting lengths on the field in just a furlong, before cruising to the line, again under a slight hold.
The son of Contributor, that is out of Ali Spur, is now unbeaten in two career starts, and his trainer Tim Donnelly – who is generally reserved when discussing his horses – couldn’t hide his excitement when quizzed on Participator.
“He is untapped,” Donnelly said.
“He is very raw, and a big kid and I sort of compare him to an early draft pick. He is still not furnished yet mentally more than anything, but he has a lot of ability.”
Donnelly continued with the football metaphors when describing Participator, explaining he would only get better with time.
“It’s a bit of a joke to him. He is like a kid that is so dominant in junior footy, and he can go out and play and it’s fun for him,” Donnelly said.
“Once he gets up in stronger grades, it will be harder and hopefully he learns and improves.
“We haven’t seen the best of him. He has another year of improvement and who knows how good he can be.”
Highlighting just how good Participator is right now, Donnelly said he was easily better than stablemate Pontmain, which is a big statement, considering the lightly raced eight-year-old has scored back-to-back wins at Wagga in recent times.
“He works with Pontmain and gives him six lengths start and still runs past him,” Donnelly said.
“Even before he won his first start at 25/1, there wouldn’t be a horse that could beat him in the stable, but he didn’t know how to do it.
“He would get to those horses and start going flat out and he just thinks, ‘well I can run, so I will run’, but he is getting better and learning how it all goes.”
Donnelly didn’t know if Participator was the best horse he had ever trained, but he explained that he is surely in those discussions.
“It’s a bit hard to say, but he is up there,” Donnelly said.
“It’s been a long time since I have had a really good one.”
The Wagga trainer will now set the exiting three-year-old for a 1200m Class Two Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on November 27.
Regardless of how he goes in town, Participator will be turned out before potentially following the same path that the Gary Colvin-trained, Another One, took when heading to the Southern Districts Country Championships qualifier early next gear.
“He will run in a Highway in four weeks from today. He is following a similar path to Another One,” Donnelly said.
“Another One came second in that two-year-old race we won, and he won that same race we won yesterday.
“Even though he didn’t win the Highway the next start, we won a Highway after that before he went to the Country Championships.”
Although it would be tempting to race the youngster again following his next start in Sydney, Donnelly said he needed enough time to have his galloper ready for a genuine crack at the Country Championships.
“That is why he is only having the one more run and going out for a spell, otherwise you don’t get enough time to give him a break and a good preparation,” Donnelly said.
“If we exposed him to good horses too soon, he might be vulnerable, so we will take our time with him and race him in his grade.”
Participator’s win is Donnelly’s third victory on the trot, after Kitzbuhel won the TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick last Saturday and Revellers won at Cootamundra last Friday.
The Wagga conditioner has now trained eight winners from just 28 starters this season.