Todd Smart and Love Shuck primed as Black Opal looms large

Todd Smart with the well-named Love Shuck that is being set for next month’s $200,000 Black Opal Stakes.
Photo: Thoroughbred Park.

Canberra trainer Todd Smart appears to have several options as he prepares to unleash first-starter Love Shuck in the coming days. 

The two-year-old that is by Mikki Isle and out of Oyster Bell is entered in Friday’s $50,000 Black Opal Stakes Preview at Canberra along with races at Albury on Saturday and Queanbeyan on Sunday, and Smart admitted he was keeping his options open. 

“He is in at Canberra, but we are going to accept at Queanbeyan and Albury and see where he draws,” Smart said. 

“As the old saying goes, ‘keep your horse in the worst company and yourself in the best’ and that’s what we’ll do with him, and we’ll go to the weakest option because I think he can win first-up.”

Love Shuck hasn’t missed a beat in the lead-up to his first race, winning trials at Goulburn in December, Canberra in January, and Goulburn again in February. 

At Goulburn on February 16 when trialling over 800m, Love Shuck was given a good hit-out by Damon Budler and put pay to Snake Gully Cup winner Super Helpful, and Smart said it was always the plan to see what his youngster could do under some pressure.  

“He does everything so easy at home, and it’s the same in trials, and he can get to the front a bit too soon, and he starts to look around and does a few things wrong,” Smart said. 

“We wanted to give him a slap up the shoulder and see how he would react under a bit of pressure, because as two-year-olds, sometimes they don’t experience that until race day, and some don’t handle it. 

“We’ve trialled him three times now, and he’s got his quirks, and he does a few things wrong, but he is winning his trials and doing everything we ask of him.”

While Smart isn’t entirely sure where Love Shuck will race first-up, he said that the $200,000 Black Opal Stakes at Canberra on March 12 was the main target, while connections were also considering the $200,000 Inglis 2YO Challenge at Scone later in the year. 

“100%, that’s the target,” Smart replied when asked if connections will target the Black Opal. 

“He is a Scone sale horse, and they have a nice two-year-old race in May, but our main goal is the Black Opal,” Smart said. 

“We want him to win on Friday or over the weekend and then in a couple of weeks we’ll go straight into the Black Opal. 

“He is going well, and he worked well with a good horse in Washington Towers the other day, and we think he is ready to go.”

Smart appears to have some good chances over the next few days, with Fire and Gemstone, 

Mr Magsman, and Eurosay all set to race at either Canberra, Albury, or Queanbeyan. 

“Mr Magsman will go in the Benchmark 58 2000m at Albury on Saturday, and I expect him to go well,” Smart said. 

“Eurosay is getting a bit old and has lost a bit of dash, but I think there is a win in him this prep, and Fire and Gemstone is back to his home track with Billy Owen on board, and he should go close.

“We definitely have a few chances there over the weekend, and hopefully they can deliver for their owners.”

At Canberra on Friday, it is a huge day of racing, with the $150,000 Canberra Mile the feature race on the card, while the $40,000 National Sprint Preview and $40,000 Canberra Guineas Preview have both attracted quality fields. 

There is $74,000 up for grabs for Canberra Racing Club Members and readers can click here to enter.

For more on the race day click here and for the nine-race-card click here