Promising Grafton sprinter Alf’s Magic put the “bite” – figuratively speaking – on his Brisbane rivals last Saturday to strengthen his claims for a Newhaven Park Country Championships berth.
But trainer Dwayne Schmidt has held off confirming a start for the three-year-old in the Northern Rivers Racing Association $150,000 heat at Coffs Harbour on February 12.
Alf’s Magic’s decisive victory against his own age and sex over 1200m at Doomben at the weekend not only clinched a hat-trick, but also confirmed both his complete recovery from a bout last year of Ross River Fever (a viral infection transmitted through mosquito bites), along with his trainer’s vigilance.
When the colt was a well-beaten fourth as favourite in a 2YO Maiden Plate (1015m) on his home track on June 27 on the opening day of Grafton’s annual carnival, Schmidt was adamant something was amiss.
“I knew he had lengths on his rivals that day, and wasn’t prepared to continue with his preparation,” Schmidt told NSW Country & Picnic Racing.
“We had him thoroughly examined, and the tests revealed a low-grade infection as a result of Ross River Fever.
“It’s not uncommon in horses, but isn’t always discovered unless the relative tests are undertaken.
“We gave him a good break to recover, and he has come back and now won three races in a row.
“Alf’s Magic pulled up well from the Doomben race, and is having a couple of days’ break in a paddock at his owner’s property outside Grafton.”
Schmidt will nominate the colt for the Coffs Harbour 1400m heat, but has delayed committing to run him for a couple of reasons.
“I’ll know more once entries close on February 7, and undoubtedly they are going to be strong,” he said.
“I certainly wouldn’t run Alf’s Magic if the track is heavy at Coffs.
“Though I don’t have doubts Alf’s Magic will run 1400m, he may be a bit too brilliant for it at this early stage of his career.”
Whilst the colt’s managing part-owner David Blumberg is keen to have a crack at the Country Championships heat, Schmidt is fortunate to have a fallback plan should a decision be made to swerve the Coffs Harbour race.
“There is another 3YO Handicap (with QTIS bonuses applicable) over 1200m at Doomben the same day,” he said.
Including a $24,500 QTIS bonus, Alf’s Magic earned $67,200 last Saturday to boost his overall earnings so far to $110,310 from only five starts.
Schmidt purchased Alf’s Magic, on behalf of expatriate South African Blumberg, for $55,000 at the Magic Millions March yearling sale in 2020.
As it turned out, he secured him for a cheaper price than the $65,000 he was passed in at (with a reserve of $100,000) at the higher profile Magic Millions sale two months earlier.
“I didn’t bid for the colt at the January sale, but was keen to get him at the March sale because of his sprinting pedigree, being by Rubick out of a Snitzel mare (Starzel),” Schmidt explained.
“He could gallop from early on, but still has more to learn.
“I’m sure there is further improvement in him.”
Schmidt and Blumberg live in the same Grafton street, and have had some previous success together, winning the 2018 Armidale Cup (1900m) with Kasharn, and a couple of races with now retired Savanna Jeune (named after the owner’s wildlife reserve in South Africa).
When it came to choosing a name for the Rubick colt, Blumberg opted for Alf’s Magic, combining his father’s name along with the first part of the Magic Millions.
“David’s Dad has raced plenty of horses in South Africa, but never had a decent one,” Schmidt said.
“Hopefully, Alf’s Magic can do the right thing and win a good race for all concerned.”
Hoofnote: Schmidt’s wife Tahaila is a part-owner of Alf’s Magic, and shared in the Doomben excitement last Saturday.
“David kindly gave Tahaila a five per cent share in the colt,” Schmidt said.
“She rides Alf’s Magic in all his work, and was understandably emotional when he won.”