Sydney’s John Thompson is confident a change of gear can get his stallion Hooked back to his best as the horse shoots for back-to-back wins in Saturday’s Crystal Mile 2015 on Cox Plate Day.
Last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival the son of Casino Prince backed up from a brave third to He’s Your Man in Sydney’s Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) and thrived in his Melbourne race debut at Moonee Valley Racecourse.
He beat home Bull Point by one and three-quarter lengths in the $200,000 Group 2 Schweppes Crystal Mile (1600m) and is back to defend his title in the weight-for-age feature this weekend.
Hooked has won one race since his Crystal Mile success 12 months ago, taking out the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) by a half-length first-up at Randwick this September.
Following that he was last past the post when ninth behind Chris Waller’s Doncaster Mile champ Kermadec, a $7.50 chance through Ladbrokes.com.au for Saturday’s $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m).
His final lead-up to the Crystal Mile was also disappointing when 11th behind another Waller-trained star, $7 Cox Plate second favourite Winx, in his second Epsom Handicap appearance.
In a bid to help Hooked return to form for Saturday, Thompson has added blinkers to his gear for the weekend, which the galloper hasn’t worn since his three-year-old season back in 2013.
“I’ve had 200 of them and they all improve with blinkers,” Thompson told Racenet.
“He’s going well he just needs to mentally switch on. He was in front at the furlong the other day but as soon as they headed him he turned it up.
“If I can put the blinkers on and make him focus, especially around here, that could prove the difference.”
At Tuesday morning’s Breakfast with the Best Hooked was put through his paces at Moonee Valley working solo over 1200m in 1.19.23, the final 400m covered in 24.61 seconds, with his 2014 Cyrstal Mile winning jockey Craig Williams in the saddle.
“Last year he worked like a dromedary first time out,” Thompson said on Tuesday after the gallop.
“Today he was really switched on. He’s been here a couple of times now so it’s good.
“He worked well and came off the track kicking-up, so that’s a good sign.”
The Crystal Mile is a traditional lead-up to the Melbourne Cup Carnival’s $1 million Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) run at Flemington on Saturday November 7, a race Hooked finished a brave fifth to Hucklebuck in last season.
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