Majority owner Keith Schleiger is eyeing a Shamus Award-like fairy-tale in the 2016 Cox Plate with the early entry of his lightly-raced three-year-old Smooth Whiskey for Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
Schleiger, best known as the foreman from Channel 9 TV show The Block, declared the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) as his “favourite race” and pushed for Lee & Anthony Freedman to throw in a nomination for his Snitzel colt Smooth Whiskey.
Cox Plate 2016 nominations closed on Tuesday with 157 early entries for the Moonee Valley classic running on Saturday October 22.
Seven come from the stables of Team Freedman, most notably last year’s Caulfield Cup third placegetter Our Ivanhowe who is also in the mix for another shot at that mile and a half feature the week before Cox Plate Day.
Also among the Freedman contingent is the Schleiger-raced Smooth Whiskey who was a surprise nominee having had just one run to date.
That was a 1200m maiden race at Ballarat back on May 22 where the then two-year-old ran fourth to Urban Ruler.
Smooth Whiskey is understandably rated as a $151 roughie in the current Cox Plate odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, but Schleiger is thrilled to just be chasing the dream with his first ever horse.
“I asked Lee to enter him for the Cox Plate, it’s my favorite race,” Schleiger told G1X this week.
“Lee said he was going to nominate him for the Caulfield Guineas and the [Victoria] Derby so I said why not the Cox Plate as well, it’s my favorite race and I thought of what Shamus Award did, so the dream is alive.”
Shamus Award was prepared by Danny O’Brien when he made history during his three-year-old season taking out the 2013 Cox Plate as a $21 maiden – the first maiden to win the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival major.
Co-trainer and Hall of Famer Lee Freedman has prepared two previous Cox Plate winners in the past 30 years with Super Impose (1992) and the mighty Makybe Diva (2005).
Schleiger named Smooth Whiskey and designed the horse’s racing silks that are the colours of Richmond vs Carlton in the AFL.
“He was going to be called The Code but Code was gone then someone said Smooth something and I just liked Smooth Whiskey and it suits – then it was onto the colours,” he said of the colt he paid $90,000 for at the 2015 Inglis Premier Sale.
Schleiger also loves to be involved in everything from track gallops to future racing plans.
“It’s very stressful being an owner,” he admitted.
“I had to wait until I could afford it then rang Lee and asked him to buy me a horse.
“At the moment our return is $400 on a much bigger investment than that, which is hard to explain to the missus, at times but we have a dream.”
While the Cox Plate is a dream, the more likely spring target for the up-and-comer is the $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) on October 8.
The 2016 Caulfield Guineas attracted a record 329 nominations this season and is also a race Freedman has taken out twice in the past three decades with Centro (1990) and Mahogany (1993).
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