Rising Ballarat trainer Mick Stanley has been involved with one or two good pacers in his relatively short career to date but it’s his life lessons in the sport that are now moulding Hilltop Hustler into potentially his best ever horses.
Because temptation has been lingering to shoot for the stars with the talented gelding. He has shown potential that matches almost any horse in the state but Stanley’s cool hand has yet to release the breaks.
A tilt at the Mildura Cup was his first Free For All foray but it didn’t end the way connections would have been hoping.
In saying that, his trainer took plenty from the run.
“Even after Mildura, where we didn’t have the best of luck, one thing Gavin (Lang) did say to me after the race was that you may have missed out on the cheque tonight but make sure you look after him and he will have a good future next year,” Stanley said.
“To hear that from a guy like Gavin who has driven so many group horses and great horses, it just gives me a bit of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction with him.”
For now though, Hilltop Hustler will push on to the Warragul Cup where he will have to take on potential Country Cup Kings Arber and Savesomtimetodream.
And even Stanley knows that the expected drop in grade will still present its own problems.
“I wouldn’t say any Cup around Victoria is a step down, they’re all hard to win but my fella is racing in good form and Warragul was a target because it’s drawn on class so he should draw better than a few of his rivals which makes it a nice race for him,” he said.
“I’ve always had a big opinion of him and looked after him so I can get the best out of him.”
Sunday might be the conclusion of a big weekend for the stable but Saturday is where everything begins.
Smart two-year-old filly Soho Tokyo heads to Menangle in the hope of moving through to the final of the APG.
The rich feature race has been on the radar for Stanley for quite a while and his opinion of the filly suggest she will be hard to beat in both heat and final.
“I do love this filly, she’s just a beautiful filly to deal with, there’s no fuss about her. She’s a real professional and she just gets the job done,” he said.
“I was rapt with the heat run and I think I have her peaking at the right time. We’ve got a nice barrier for the semi-final so hopefully we can progress through and I think I’ve got a filly that’s a live chance to win the final that’s for sure.”