IN Racing
Exciting hurdler English Gambler set to resume
Cambridge trainer Lauren Brennan is in the awkward position of wanting good tracks for her leading jumper and wet tracks for her flat horses.
NZ Racing Desk | April 18, 2023
Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

Cambridge trainer Lauren Brennan is in the awkward position of wanting good tracks for her leading jumper and wet tracks for her flat horses.

Brennan’s bold hurdler English Gambler begins his campaign in a 2000m highweight at Matamata on Wednesday, hoping that the rain doesn’t become too predominant in the upcoming months.

But she’s also got horses such as Darci’s Queen, Swindle, and Nancho Girl getting to run again, who want exactly the opposite.

“We’re waiting for the rain for these ones, and now it doesn’t look like we’re going to get it for a while. It’s a Catch 22,” Brennan said.

English Gambler is an extremely headstrong horse, but also an exciting one to watch over hurdles. He invariably gallops away to a big lead and then tries to hang on at the end, ensuring a great spectacle for viewers.

The tactics brought him an eight-length maiden victory, a race where he was contesting the lead when falling at the last, and a runner-up effort in the Waikato Hurdle (3200m) on June 18 last season.

The eight-year-old hasn’t raced since the Waikato Hurdle effort as he picked up an injury after that race.

“He had a slight suspensory problem, but it was quite wet and he wants better tracks for the jumping rather than really heavy ground,” Brennan said.

“He’s only a young jumper and we thought we may as well save him for this year.”

English Gambler has been in work since just after Christmas and has had two trials, the second of them a winning one at Avondale on March 14, ahead of Wednesday’s race.

“He’s had a long, slow build up and hopefully he’s ready for his first start,” Brennan said.

“Then the jumping starts next month, and I’m hoping the rain stays away and we don’t get such heavy tracks. He skips along a lot easier, given the way he runs from the front, if the track is better.

“We don’t want to change too much with him. If he can get away with it, he does, but you can’t restrain him because he uses up too much petrol fighting the rider.”

Darci’s Queen won twice last season, while Nancho Girl and Swindle remain maidens after a handful of starts each. Swindle has run three times for a second and two fourths and could race a little way into winter, while the other two will definitely prefer wet ground.

Meanwhile, Brennan’s good sprinter-miler Packing Rockstar has gone out for a break after a frustrating season.

The seven-year-old has continued to run good races but his rating in the 90s has made him hard to place. Invariably he’s been giving weight away when asked to contest handicaps, or else found one or two a little superior at weight-for-age level.

His best efforts for the season were a second in the Gr.3 King’s Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa, third in the Gr.3 Sweynesse Stakes (1215m) at Rotorua, and fourth at Tauranga in the Gr.2 Ultimate Mazda Japan Trophy (1600m), a race he won two years ago.

“It’s been a nightmare, really. With the handicaps he was getting 62kg,” Brennan said.

“He runs well at weight-for-age but there’s only so many of those every year, and then he comes up against horses like Levante and Babylon Berlin and he’s probably not quite at that top level.

“He ran a couple of set weights and penalties races (the King’s Plate and the Japan Trophy) and that suited him, but it’s not easy to place him.”

Packing Rockstar is likely to return for one more season of racing.

One horse that has moved on from the Brennan stable is the three-year-old Zaher. The son of Proisir has run some decent races this season, winning a Rating 65 1650m event at Waverley on March 3, but found it tougher when taking on black-type company, finishing 14th in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) on March 18.

“The owners have decided to send him to Queensland and race him over there, which is understandable because the stake money is a lot better,” she said. 

Darci’s Queen English Gambler Gr.2 Ultimate Mazda Japan Trophy Gr.3 King’s Plate Gr.3 Sweynesse Stakes Lauren Brennan Matamata Nancho Girl Packing Rockstar Proisir Swindle Tauranga Te Rapa Waikato Hurdle