where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2024-01-15 17:20:41  
Reigning Horse of the Year returns "Sharp"

In the latest effort at Ellerslie, Sharp ‘N’ Smart, the reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year, exhibited a commendable reappearance, securing the third position in the Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic Preview (1400m) behind the exceptional Legarto.

Graeme and Debbie Rogerson, the astute trainers, had initially envisioned ambitious plans for the Redwood progeny's spring campaign. Unfortunately, these plans were thwarted by a viral infection, as revealed in a veterinary examination post his subpar run in the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at Hastings in September.

The doubts surrounding Sharp ‘N’ Smart intensified after a lackluster display in the resuming Open 1100m trial at Tauranga earlier this month. However, he defied expectations with a decent comeback at Ellerslie.

Addressing concerns, Graeme Rogerson emphasized, “Everyone had written him off after his barrier trial, but it was only 1100m and he never got warmed up. We gave him a couple of hard hit-outs after that, and he has certainly improved.”

The seasoned trainer expressed satisfaction with the performance, asserting that the 1400m sprint doesn't fully showcase Sharp ‘N’ Smart's capabilities. Looking ahead, the horse is slated to return to Ellerslie for the $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) in two weeks, setting the stage for a rematch with Legarto.

Anticipating further improvement, Rogerson stated, “I am looking forward to the next round in two weeks, and I think he will be at his peak for the Herbie Dyke. He will then head to the New Zealand Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) and then over to Australia.”

Australia has been a favorable terrain for Sharp ‘N’ Smart, boasting victories in the Gr.1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and G.3 Gloaming Stakes, with a runner-up finish in the Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m) as a three-year-old.

Rogerson outlined potential future plans, revealing, “He is either going to Sydney for the Queen Elizabeth (Gr.1, 2000m) and Tancred (Gr.1, 2400m), or to Melbourne for the Australian Cup (Gr.1, 2000m). We will throw a nomination in for Hong Kong, playing everything by ear.”

Adding to the stakes, Sharp ‘N’ Smart is set to face competition in the Herbie Dyke Stakes from stablemate Just As Sharp. The latter, despite an eighth-place finish in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham, is earmarked for a promising trajectory, with expectations high for the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Million 3YO (1600m) at the Karaka Millions meeting.

Reflecting on Just As Sharp's recent performance, Rogerson expressed confidence, noting, “He had no luck at Wellington on Saturday, Ryan (Elliot, jockey) said he got hit in behind when turning for home, but he hit the line well. I think he is our Derby horse.”

Image Extraction: Trish Darnell

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