Rocket Tiger ready to roar in town

Wagga trainer Scott Spackman is hoping Rocket Tiger can make a winning return at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Photo: Supplied.

For every good horse, there’s generally a better story and that is certainly the case with the Scott Spackman-trained Rocket Tiger

Owen by the Penfold family, the Cluster gelding that is out of Takook sent connections on the ride of a lifetime, with the then two-year-old winning on debut at Canberra before taking out the two-year-old Boxing Day Plate at Royal Randwick in 2020. 

After an eight-week let-up, the Wagga galloper followed those efforts up with a second placing to Home Affairs in the Group 2 Silver Slipper at Rosehill Garden in February 2021, before running third in the Group 3 Black Opal Stakes at Canberra in March 2021.

Later that month, and following a multitude of vet inspections, the youngster finished a game 10th to Stay Inside in the 2021 Group 1 Golden Slipper at Rosehill Gardens. 

A freak shoulder injury then cruelled the promising youngster’s career, and he would only start one more time when running sixth in the TAB Sprint at Flemington in March 2022.

Almost a year later, Rocket Tiger is over his injury concerns, and Spackman said he is back to his best and ready to race in the $150,000 TAB Handicap at Royal Randwick on Saturday. 

“He’s perfect mate. I’m rapt with him; he’s the best I’ve ever had him,” Spackman said. 

“I’ve still got to see him do it, but Jesus Christ, I can’t fault him.”

Rocket Tiger trialled at Wagga on January 5, and over 1000m, he cantered to the lead and defeated the likes of Boss Lady Rocks and Bezazzalled, giving every indication he is back to his barnstorming best. 

“He’s a tough little nut, he’s work has been outstanding; second to none, and he’s never won a trial in his life, but he did it on his ear at Wagga,” Spackman said. 

“He’s come on from the trial, his work has been good, and I honestly can’t fault the horse.”

Spackman believes the long break will help Rocket Tiger, who was the focus of Racing NSW stewards leading into the 2021 Golden Slipper. 

“That little horse got absolutely hammered by vets leading into the (Golden) Slipper and the part today I don’t understand is; why was he was looked at by three different vets that made him do different things he wasn’t comfortable doing,” Spackman questioned.

“They’re entitled to their opinion, but I’m with the horse every day, and all they did in my opinion was make him sour. 

“Then with his last campaign when I was going to Flemington, he had four weeks in the paddock in a 12-month period, and I brought him back in and he had vet check after vet check because of his injured shoulder.  

“He had blood samples taken, hair samples taken, and I remember taking him to Flemington that day and he was just over it; he’d had a gut full.

“I said to Noel (Penfold), there’s two ways we look at this; we either freshen him up for the (Wagga) Town Plate, or give him a good break, and we gave him the break and it was good for him mentally and physically. 

“He has filled out, he is definitely a lot stronger physically, and he is not a baby anymore, but he is a little man.

“I honestly think his best is yet to come, and I just hope he goes to Sydney and doesn’t letter everyone down.”

Spackman isn’t holding any grudges or focusing on the past though, with his attention solely on Saturday’s race, and he has booked the services of NSW’s leading jockey Aaron Bullock, who will have it all to do from gate 11.

“We’ve got Aaron booked, and I honestly couldn’t be happier,” Spackman said. 

“The main reason I booked him is that he has had two rides for me in his career, and he rode them like George Moore, so I had no hesitation in putting him on.” 

Spackman’s connection to Bullock goes back to 2014 when the then 1.5kg claiming apprentice rode Romancing to Win to victory in the 1200m Class Two Plate.

It was Bullock’s first ever ride for the Harden stable, and from the outside gate, he found a good position and flashed late to land a good victory for connections. 

“I tell you what, it all goes back to a horse I had called Romancing to Win,” Spackman said. 

“Nick Souquet rode her at her first start for me after it had come from David Vandyke, and I thought it could win and it ran fourth and Souquet got off and said that ‘you’ll find it’s tying up’.

“So, I got to Albury, and I put her in a 1400m, and we had stinking hot weather; it was 40 degrees every day, and Andrew Bloomfield was meant to ride her, but I scratched her because I thought too much of her. 

“Then I got to Australia Day at Wagga and had her in a 1200m race, and I rang Nick Souquet, and he was booked to ride Calke Abbey, Andrew Bloomfield was riding one (My Promise) for Wayne Carroll, and Brad Clarke couldn’t take the ride, so I accepted without a rider. 

“I think a bloke called Greg Bourke was managing him (Bullock) at the time, and he rang, and he said he had a young apprentice for me, and I asked if him, ‘can he ride?’, and he said ‘yes’, so I put him on, he won, and I’ve been infatuated ever since. 

“I’m just a big fan, and he is such a professional jockey. I’ve always followed him, and put it this way, you’re not losing if you back Aaron Bullock.”

As far as the pair’s chances on Saturday, Spackman said it now came down to the horse, but he said Rocket Tiger, which is considered a $7 chance, was oozing confidence as connections prepared for a well-overdue return to racing. 

“He just knows he’s good and he just thinks he is good, and he treats you that way,” Spackman laughed. 

“We can’t do anymore. The horse feels good, and it’s now up to him and Aaron to get the job done.”