Norm Gardner’s reputation for having two-year-olds primed to win continued at Thoroughbred Park on Friday, with the Canberra trainer winning the first leg of the inaugural Canberra Speed Series with Miss Belgium.
Racing on his home track in the $50,000 Clan O’Sullivan, Miss Belgium came up against some very nice two-year-olds in the 1000m event.
Under the guidance of Jess Taylor, the Capitalist filly that is out of Lonely Hour started a $7 chance but led the entire trip, winning by a length from the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Hokusai (Winona Costin, $2.10), while in third and 3.46 lengths away was the Danielle Seib-trained Griffinstown Girl (Hannah Williams, $31).
Miss Belgium had been racing in town, and she made her debut in the Group 3 Gimcrack Stakes ag Royal Randwick back in October before finishing sixth and fifth in recent outings at Warwick Farm.
At her fourth official outing, she put it altogether on her home track, and Gardner was thrilled with the result.
“I was very confident,” Gardner said.
“Her first few runs have been very, very good, especially the last one at Warwick Farm, but I said to the owners that we were at home this time and those guys had to travel three hours, and we only had to walk down the road.”
Miss Belgium did do a few little things wrong, and Gardner agreed that she was a very progressive type.
“She is still very green, and she tries to get it over and done with too quick,” Gardner said.
“The plan was to lead yesterday, and it all worked out well, but she will be a better horse after a break and when she works it all out.”
Connections will roll the dice with Miss Belgium, which is now being set for the Gold Coast Magic Millions 2YO Classic on January 14.
The Rachel Holden and Rebecca Satur-owned filly will take on the $2 million event, with Gardner hoping Miss Belgium can at least be the first female-owned galloper past the post.
“At this stage, she will go to the Magic Millions in two weeks’ time. She is owned by two women who are the daughters of our main owner Reg Keene, making her eligible for the women’s bonus,” Gardner said.
“It’s a $2 million race and it is going to be really tough, but you only get one chance, and that $500,000 bonus is for the first female-owned horse past the post and last year I believe that went to the eighth-place horse.
“If she gets a run, we will ring around to various trainers up there and find a place, and she will go up on the Tuesday night, get there on the Wednesday morning and swim for a couple of days before racing on the Saturday.”
After their Magic Millions foray, Gardner will likely turn his attention towards the $200,000 Black Opal on March 12.
“We will have to see how she comes through this next run, but she wouldn’t go in the (Black Opal) Preview (on February 24), and she is exempt from the ballot for the Black Opal,” Gardner said.
“The plan is to take her up to the Gold Coast, see how she goes, see how she pulls up, and then give her a short break and have her ready for the Black Opal.”
As part of the Canberra Speed Series, the $50,000 Black Opal Preview on Friday, February 24 will be another 1000m two-year-old event, and acts as the second leg.
This leads directly into the third and final leg, the $200,000 Group 3 Group Black Opal Stakes on Sunday, March 12.
Thoroughbred Park has offered a $100,000 bonus to connections of the horse that can win all three legs, although it seems that is off the table this year with Miss Belgium set to miss the Black Opal Preview.
Still, the Canberra trainer believes the series will really kick off in the next few years.
“Darren Pearce – the new CEO – it was his idea and I think it will get stronger each year,” Gardner said.
“It took everyone by surprise a little bit this year, but I think it’s going to be a good thing for the club.”