Terry Robinson had his doubters tackling last Saturday’s $1.3m The Kosciuszko (1200m) at Royal Randwick first-up with Art Cadeau, but the experienced Shoalhaven Heads horseman knew exactly what he was doing.
“I prepared him as though my father would have,” he said in a fitting tribute to his father Kevin, the legendary harness racing trainer-driver and thoroughbred trainer, who passed away in 2005.
“Dad was a great believer in giving horses a really good foundation before he took them to the races.
“He made sure they had a 12 weeks’ build-up behind them, and had a good first-up record.
“I went three and a half months this time with Art Cadeau because there were a couple of problems earlier in the year before he won the Country Championships final.
“Those extra couple of weeks were a precaution in case something went wrong, but as it turned out the preparation could not have gone better.”
Nor could things have gone better when raceday rolled around either. With Tommy Berry aboard, Art Cadeau added to his remarkable record (six wins and as many placings from 12 starts) when he overhauled inaugural 2019 The Kosciuszko winner Handle The Truth in the closing stages.
Thus, trainer and horse hoisted themselves into the record books, becoming the first to complete the Country Championships Final – The Kosciuszko double.
Rather ironically, Robinson had his horse in peak condition – but not so himself.
“I had a fall from another horse at the beach about six weeks before The Kosciuszko, and sustained rib cartilage and rotator cuff damage,” he explained.
“As a result, I was unable to continue riding work, and my brother Anthony did a great job helping out.
“I’m still getting vertigo, but will get over it. I wasn’t feeling any pain though when Art Cadeau won.”
66-year-old Robinson, the eldest of 12 children, has the same modesty his father possessed and isn’t one to brag about his training exploits.
But he confessed to being “the most relaxed I have ever been going into a big race”.
“Tommy (Berry) rode Art Cadeau in a 1000m barrier trial at Hawkesbury in late September when he ran second to Trumbull, a stakes winner in town,” Robinson said.
“Art Cadeau only does what he has to in work and trials and saves his best for racedays, yet Tommy commented afterwards that the horse was the best he had ever felt to him.
“That trial brought him on and I galloped him with another horse with plenty of ability at Nowra on the Sunday before The Kosciuszko and he went terrific.
“Mick Lill (who races Art Cadeau with his wife Joy) came out to the stables to do a local TV interview the day before The Kosciuszko, and he said: ‘Wow. The horse looks super’.
“I was confident we had him right, and that he would be very strong at the end because he is really a 1600m horse and bred to run that trip.
“Mick bred Art Cadeau, and it was a good omen when his older half-brother Lord Desanimaux won the TAB Highway at Randwick a week before The Kosciuszko.
“I had been keen to run Art Cadeau in a Highway at the same Kosciuszko meeting 12 months ago, but Mick didn’t want to take on stablemate Lady Demi after she had left him standing in a lead-up workout.”
Instead, Robinson took him to Kembla Grange two days before The Kosciuszko for a midweek Class 1 Handicap (1000m). Only four ran – and it was one of his six seconds.
But he quickly got back into winning vein, taking a Highway at Rosehill Gardens 16 days later.
Robinson, no stranger either at successfully training and driving harness horses earlier on, began to focus more strongly on thoroughbreds after his father’s death.
“But things were pretty tough for a while,” he said. “I had to hang in there and keep going.”
He bought a couple of yearlings at a Scone sale and one of them was a Covetous filly (Vicadelsa), who was raced by one of his Dad’s clients Albert Tory.
“She was the best thing I ever saddled up when she won a 2YO Maiden on debut at Goulburn in April, 2006,” he said.
“Albert had bought into Danebar, who ran so well in two Adelaide Cups (fifth and fourth respectively in 2006 and 2007) and won the Group 3 lead-up at Morphettville nine days before contesting his second Cup there.
“He came back and won the Lord Mayor’s Cup at Rosehill two months later. Danebar won eight races, but that was his only Sydney success.”
Robinson keeps 14 horses in work at his South Coast base – and wants it to stay that way.
“That’s the maximum number,” he said. “I don’t want any more than that.”
The Racing NSW handicapping panel shot Art Cadeau’s benchmark rating up six points to 94 following his The Kosciuszko triumph, even though his four Sydney wins have been against fellow country rivals.
“Art Cadeau was understandably a bit tired for a day or so after last Saturday’s race, but has bounced back,” Robinson said.
“I’ve kept him in work, and we’ll have to decide where to go with him next.
“Wherever we run him, he is going to be up against the big boys now, so Mick and myself are realistic about maintaining his great record.
“But Art Cadeau’s biggest asset is that he has a very big heart.”
The same could be said about his trainer.