Strong shortlist for NSW Country horse of the year

The NSWROA Country Champion horse of the year finalists for 2020/21.

Four NSW country gallopers have been shortlisted for the 2021 NSW Racehorse Owner’s Association (NSWROA) Country Champion Horse of the year award.

Selected by a Racing NSW pane, Art Cadeau (Terry Robinson, It’s Me (Brett Cavanough), Handle The Truth (Keith Dryden) and Rocket Tiger (Scott Spackman) made the short list, and now judges will have a hard time separating the four.

Art Cadeau is the pride of Nowra, having won five times from 11 starts.

In 2020/21, the five-year-old Artie Schiller gelding won four times from six starts, finishing runner up on the other two occasions and it was Tommy Berry in the saddle each time.

During that run, Art Cadeau won two TAB Highways, one at Rosehill Gardens and one at Royal Randwick. 

The Terry Robinson runner then won the hotly contested South East Country Championship qualifier at Goulburn, before going on to win the $500,000 Royal Randwick final, starting favourite and holding off the likes of Another One and Charmmebaby in a tight finish.

It’s Me is unbeaten after four starts, winning $816,700 in a short but very sweet career. 

After winning on debut for Ashley Morgan at Scone back in August of last year, the five-year-old Shamus Award mare won back-to-back TAB Highway Handicaps at Royal Randwick before proving too good in the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko.

Jason Collett rode It’s Me at her last three starts, and the pair kept punters on their toes in the rich country final at Royal Randwick, flashing late to get the win. 

Rocket Tiger will be a popular selection in the Southern Districts, with his story garnering the attention of local media and grass roots racing tragics everywhere. 

Scott Spackman, a Wagga trainer from Harden, is as country as you can find and would happily frequent a picnic meeting before venturing to town. 

Rocket Tiger won his first two starts, toughing out victories at Canberra (Mathew Cahill) and a TAB Highway at Royal Randwick (Kathy O’Hara). 

The three-year-old Cluster gelding would have O’Hara on board for his next three starts, finishing second in the Silver Slipper at Rosehill, third in the Black Opal Stakes at Canberra before being caught wide and finishing down the track in the world’s premier two-year-old race, the Golden Slipper. 

The Keith Dryden trained Handle The Truth is the last horse on this list, with the Canberra galloper a picture of consistency in some very tough races. 

During the 2020/21 season, the six-year-old Star Witness gelding raced eight times, winning once but putting in some terrific efforts in other big races. 

Handle The Truth won the Canberra National Sprint, finished second in the Wagga Town Plate, third in the Goulburn Cup and fourth in the The Kosciuszko.

With such a good line up of horses to pick from, highlighting the strength of country racing, NSWROA Chief Executive Officer Jane Henning said it was important to recognise the efforts of NSW country trained horses. 

“It’s very important. We have plenty of members that live in the country,” Henning said.  

“There are obviously some great trainers out there as well and it is good to see some of them recognised.”

Winner of the Country Champion Horse of the year award, along with many other NSWROA awards, will be announced at Kembla Grange on August 28.

“We will announce the winners at the ATC’s race meeting at Kembla Grange on August 28th,” Henning said. 

“It’s owner appreciation day and they will be announcing winners of various wards throughout the day.”

Owners can get behind the NSWROA by becoming a member, which can be done by either visiting their website, or by emailing [email protected].