The Croupier prepared well

NZ HARNESS NEWS

A sparkling workout on a dodgy surface at Gore on Thursday told Shane Matheson everything he needed to know ahead of The Croupier’s run at Ascot Park on Saturday.

The Roll With Joe gelding, who had been a little under the weather a week prior, showed he was back to his normal self with an impressive private display.

He ran second in the Nugget Final at Winton last week, sitting parked for most of the race, and Matheson says the effort was extra special given the lead-up to that.

“I thought he was just a little bit down on his best before it.

“In fact, I was a wee bit worried about him as he went off his tucker.

“So, given that, the run was even better than it looked.”

A penalty-free junior driver event over the staying trip of 2700 metres is the only reason Matheson considered backing him up this week.

But as the week has worn on, his confidence levels have skyrocketed.

“He’s back to his old self now; I gave him a run at Gore yesterday (Thursday) and he was great.

“The track was awful – it hadn’t been harrowed and there were potholes everywhere – and it had me thinking it probably wasn’t the best idea to be doing it.

“But I needed to know he was right to start.

“I only had a little watch with me, but he left me very happy with the time he ran.

“He’s back, and as well as he was three or four weeks ago.”

Big picture, Matheson sees The Croupier going through the grades fairly quickly.

“I think he’ll go quite a wee way.

“It’s a breed that just keeps getting as they get older – look at his brothers Freyberg and Vanhalem.

“Phil (Hewitson, breeder/owner) told me the family don’t really hit their straps until they are five or six so I’d expect if that’s the case this fella has a bit of a future.”

Matheson actually broke him in as a yearling, so he’s had to be patient with the four-year-old.

“He did cross fire quite badly but always showed ability. I just couldn’t push him as a young horse.

“And he’s still not 100 percent in his gait yet; he can put in an extra step for no real reason at times.

“We’ve been very patient with him and hopefully that pays off in the long run.”

Matheson takes three to the Northern Southland Trotting Club meeting, the other being stable stalwart Balius and in-form trotter Amabede.

“Amabede is starting to develop a little bit of speed and I think he’ll win more races, just not this preparation.

“I really like him, he’s just got no confidence, the big fella.

“I’ll probably turn him out after this start.”

Balius, now a nine-year-old, is known to go the odd good race, but the term ‘wily veteran’ springs to mind.

“He’s very in and out. He will give you a really good start every so often but can’t seem to back it up the next start.

“I do think he’s ready to go a good one, but he’s drawn badly this week.

“It really is the worst one for him and I think it probably makes it a bit tough for him this week.”

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