Mudlark will take some catching in wet Muswellbrook Cup

The Mitchell and Desiree Kearney-trained Heza Gentleman will be suited to the wet conditions in Friday’s Muswellbrook Cup. Image: Bradley Photos.

He’s $81 with bookmakers, down from $151, but Heza Gentleman’s connections are quietly confident heading into Friday’s $150,000 Muswellbrook Cup. 

With conditions set to suit the ‘mudlark’, trainer Desiree Kearney, who prepares the Hawkesbury-based team with her husband, Mitchell, believes the seven-year-old will run a bold race in the Big Dance qualifier.

“If anything, I’m more worried about the meeting being called off,” Kearney told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“We’re excited that we’re getting there, and the horse is finally getting the conditions he needs.

“Every jockey that has ridden him this preparation has said he is going well, but he just needs his conditions.”

The Nicconi gelding, who will jump from gate four with Zac Wadick in the saddle, is a different horse on a rain-affected track, and he loves the heavy going (7:4-0-1).  

It’s a stacked Muswellbrook Cup, with the Kris Lees-trained Acquitted (Aaron Bullock, $2.90) the favourite, while there is the favourite’s stablemate Kinloch (Dylan Gibbons, $6), the Ciaron Maher-trained Dasho Lennie (Ash Morgan, $6.50), and the John O’Shea-trained Waihaha Falls (Sam Clipperton, $10). 

“We had this race picked out after his last run, and we looked at the long-range forecast, and our thinking was that we might get conditions to suit,” Kearney said. 

“We thought coming back to Country Cups might make it a tad easier, but this is probably the hardest race we’ve encountered. 

“Still, if the meeting goes ahead, the conditions will suit us, and he should be right. To be honest, if he gets his way out in front, I don’t think they’ll be able to catch him.”

The fact that Heza Gentleman is running in Friday’s feature race is a miracle. 

A seven-time winner, the Hawkesbury galloper has garnered a reputation as a tough front-running commodity on rain-affected tracks. 

Unfortunately, he went amiss in June 2022 and didn’t race for 82 weeks, with injury almost cruelling his career. 

“He suffered a fractured sesamoid and torn suspensory (ligament),” Kearney said

“The prognosis for him to race again was poor, and they were pushing us towards surgery, but it was just a hairline fracture, and not one where you were worried it would chip away, so our thinking was, why go in and break something not broken?

“We elected not to do the surgery, and we tipped him out and gave him 12 months.”

After his long stint on the sidelines, Heza Gentleman was ready to return to work, and the Kearney stable eased him through the steps. 

“We ended up giving him 18 months, and when we had it X-rayed, they asked us what the horse injured, as there were no signs of the previous fracture. 

“They said the X-ray was clean, and there was no evidence of a hairline fracture, so it had healed well. 

“We had the suspensory scanned, and there was some scar tissue, but they thought how it had healed was remarkable. 

“He went to Cavallo Park to be rehabbed, water-walked, and was on the treadmill; four months later, he was X-rayed again, and it was all clear. 

“He was ready to start galloping, and the time off did him a world of good, and he came back in such good condition.”

Since then, he resumed at Rosehill Gardens on February 3 and has had four starts on unsuitable tracks.

The Kearney stable has left no stone unturned, X-raying him after each run, and there are no signs of any post-injury impact.

Kearney is thrilled to have the stable stalwart back racing, and her team hopes their boy can win again for connections. 

“Even to win for the owners would be great; they’ve been so patient,” Kearney said. 

“It’s been very emotional for us, and we consider ourselves lucky that he is still in the stable.

“For us to get him back in the winner’s circle would mean the world; he’s flown the flag for our team, he’s honest as the day comes, and it’s just nice to have him here. 

“If he wins on Friday, there will not be one dry eye, and it will be a very emotional afternoon.”

At the time of publication, Muswellbrook was rated a heavy eight, but 40-80mm of rain is forecast for the region on Friday.  

For more on the Muslwellbrook Cup and updates on tomorrow’s meeting, click here.