Young Morphettville-based horseman Nick Smart is hoping a trip to Melbourne for Thursday’s Bagot Handicap reaps rewards with his stable ace Distillation.
Smart has been training in his own right for just 18 months but boasts plenty of experience having worked closely with his father Bill through his Oakbank base, as well as with top international trainers overseas including France’s Andre Fabre and Richard Gibson.
His dream is to one day base himself in Melbourne but for now he makes the trip from Adelaide when he rates a runner a genuine chances as he does on New Year’s Day at Flemington with Distillation running in the $150,000 Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m).
The Half Hennessy gelding, now seven, was originally prepared by Jon O’Connor but proved too tough a case to handle.
He moved to the care of Smart’s father and with him the horse enjoyed rejuvenated form running well in a host of good races including his career best run when beating home Base in the Group 3 Lord Reims Stakes (2600m) in March.
“He’s been a fantastic horse for me getting my career started,” Smart told AAP.
“Originally he was trained at Morphettville by Jon O’Connor but was quite immature mentally and hard to handle.
“Jon suggested he be transferred to my dad and between the two of us he’s won eight races culminating in the Lord Reims.”
From there Distillation was outclassed when stepped up in class and distance for a shot at the Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) over the two miles to finish a distant 11 lengths away sixth behind Outback Joe.
Smart was taken with his form in Melbourne then this spring, Distillation’s first interstate trip, when third over 2800m at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, November 4.
The trainer admits he made a mistake however when caught up in the moment and running the horse just 11 days later in the Listed Sandown Cup (3200m) where Distillation weakened late and finished 10th of 11 runners behind Renew.
“It was a mistake really,” Smart said.
“He’s a horse that likes his races spaced and with the great run at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day we got a bit carried away.”
His form was back with the runs spaced out then with the stayer returning to Morphettville to win a Benchmark 82 over 2600m on December 13 by two and a half lengths, form Smart hopes he can bring to Melbourne again for the New Year’s Day run.
“It’s good to get him back into a bit of form and he should come on again,” Smart said.
Bagot Handicap betting at Ladbrokes is led by the local Danny O’Brien-trained De Little Engine at $2.80 after his fourth on the trot.
Distillation meanwhile represents value for punters willing to back the Adelaide form at $19 with Jamie Kah to ride.