TAB Highway Handicaps always have a habit of throwing up some drama and that was most certainly the case at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
The pre-race favourite Participator was a late scratching from the 1200m Class Two Handicap, with the Tim Donnelly-trained gelding found to have an elevated temperature.
Punters would have had their hearts in their mouths at times, with the four-year-old proving fractious in the mounting yard, before being led to the barriers and continuing to test the patience of the clerk of the course and stewards.
Testator Silens even pulled a shoe and required the attention of the farrier but after everything was said and done, he was eventually loaded into the gates for the $100,000 race.
The Braidwood galloper than bombed the start and sat third-last early doors, and according to race caller, Darren Flindell, he was ‘pulling its head off’ approaching the turn.
Despite sitting second last with two furlongs remaining, Van Overmeire opted for the inside running and rode for luck, and eventually Testator Silens muscled his way into a gap when coming off heels before powering away for a terrific 0.24 length win from King’s Trust (Terry Robinson/Tommy Berry), while Shenandoah (Keith Dryden/Tyler Schiller) was a further two and a half lengths away in third.
His trainer admitted there were a few nervous moments prior to the start and during the running of Saturday’s TAB Highway.
“As soon as I seen him get a bit carried away when he pulled the shoe, I was a bit worried, but I saw the shoe go on and he stood there well and I was a lot happier,” Clarke said.
“Then 100m into the race I was about to turn around and go back to the tie ups, but he is a big raw horse, he has lots of ability – he is handful, but we are working on it – but you just saw what went on there and horses don’t do that.”
The Star Witness gelding has been ultra-impressive to start his career, registering wins at Moruya and Wagga before finishing third at Rosehill in a 1200m Class Three TAB Highway Handicap back on October 30
Despite the four weeks in between runs, Clarke was always confident of a strong showing in town.
“I wanted to take him to Newcastle over the 1300m two weeks after his last start, but he was an emergency for that and didn’t get a run, so we have gone a month between runs,” Clarke said.
“He had six weeks between runs from his win in the 1000m at Wagga to when he came here in the Highway, so I knew he could do it, but he is the sort of horse you need to keep the edge of him to keep him mentally there.”
Testator Silens can be a bit of a rogue according to Clarke, but he said finding a happy ‘medium’ was all that was needed to keep his talented galloper happy.
“You just need to go with him. If he is happy, he is good,” Clarke said.
“He goes out to a paddock everyday when it is good weather, and he likes his routine, and he is happy like that.
“He does have his bad days, but you just need to go with him. The more you fight him, the more he will fight you and if you find the happy medium, he is good.”
Clarke, who looks set to celebrate a terrific win, could not praise his horse enough.
“He’s just big and raw and strong, and he is tough,” Clarke said.
“He can have a bad day and rocks up the next day and he keeps doing what he does, and he is not a coward.”
For the TAB Highway results, readers can click here.