Lucky Hussler bounced back to winning form to record a narrow victory over Illustrious Lad in the 2016 Kevin Heffernan Stakes at Ladbrokes Park this afternoon.
Lucky Hussler started his 2016 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with a seventh place finish in the Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley on September 30 and he beat home just one runner in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at the same venue on October 21, but he relished the drop in class and the step-up to 1300 metres in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes.
Illustrious Lad hit the front at the 200 metre mark and looked as though he was going to run away with the race, but Lucky Hussler kept grinding and he got his head down in the shadows of the post.
Jockey Brad Rawiller admitted that he was disappointed with the performance of Lucky Hussler in the Manikato Stakes, but he was confident that the son of Husson would be able to return to his best form in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes.
“There were excuses first-up at Moonee Valley when they really went quick, but I was disappointed with him last time – he was gone at the 600,” Rawiller said.
“He worked really good on Tuesday morning and I came here with so much confidence, but I was just wary of the fact that he hadn’t put in a good run yet.
“He showed how good he is today.
“We were exactly where we didn’t want to be, but we still go to see what he could do.”
Trainer Darren Weir revealed after the race that Lucky Hussler had been working well right throughout his 2016 Spring Racing Carnival campaign and he was delighted to see him produce that sort of effort on race day in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes.
Weir confirmed that Lucky Hussler would head to the Magic Millions Cup (1400m) at the Gold Coast on January 14 and he said that the Group 1 winner is unlikely to have another race start in the lead-up.
“He has been going really well, but his last two runs he didn’t run like he had been working,” Weir said.
“They trialed him on Tuesday morning without the blinkers and they said that he went terrific, so we thought we would roll the dice and take the blinkers off to see whether that would help.
“He attacked the line well like we know that he can and I think that he is back on track now for the Magic Millions.”
Illustrious Lad lost no admirers with his close second, while Super Cash was able to make up good ground in the final stages of the race to finish third.