By MIKE HILL
ASTUTE North Queensland trainer Harold Hovi knew he had something special the first time he trialled highly talented youngster Excuse Me Jack.
\”Breeder Dennis Barnes (NSW) told me the pup was reasonably smart, but until I trialled him I didn\’t know how smart,\” Hovi said.
\”But I knew he was special when he broke 22s in his first trial gallop over 380m at Townsville earlier in the year.
\”Not many pups do that and he\’s only got better.\”
Excuse Me Jack (My Redeemer-Fancy Dancer), probably the hottest prospect to arrive in the north for some time, doesn\’t turn two until late September but already has tongues wagging with his brilliant early deeds on the track.
And Hovi has an equally smart litter brother, Redemption Day, who he thinks will eventually develop into the better dog.
But at the moment Excuse Me Jack dominates.
Amazingly he equalled the Townsville 380m track record of 21.42s at only his third race start in mid-May and last month he again showed his enormous potential when blasted his rivals with sheer speed to cruise to victory in the $5250 Townsville Young Guns Final (380m).
Excuse Me Jack, the hot $1.40 favourite, began quickly from box three and opened up a four-length advantage before beating the gallant Laurie Wode-trained Wynburn Cruz ($18) by two-and-a-half lengths with Michael Hickmott\’s Mel\’s Gift ($9.50) five lengths away third.
The black sprinter ran a scorching BON 21.44s – just .02s outside the track record he shares with Tipsy Four – and the all-the-way victory pushed his unbeaten career record to six wins.
Then three races later Redemption Day was equally impressive in a fifth grade, clocking a super 21.48s and taking his record to three wins and a third from four starts.
Hovi immediately announced that \’the dogs are not for sale\’ while saying he was planning an ambitious Townsville Cup campaign for the pair.
The trainer, based at Gumlu, between Bowen and Ayr, has already refused one offer for Excuse Me Jack – made after the youngster clocked a super quick 21.47s in winning a novice by almost eight lengths.
\”We didn\’t buy them to sell, we bought them to race,\” Hovi said, although he did indicate he may consider sending them south, at a later date, to try their luck with a city trainer.
\”But at the moment they\’ll stay here until after the Townsville Cup carnival (September).\”
The trainer is confident both brothers can successfully step up to the 498m – the Cup distance.
But first, he says, they are going for a well-earned spell.
\”I\’m spelling Excuse Me Jack now and Redemption Day will probably have one more run,\” Hovi said.
\”I\’ll give them a month or so off and then bring them back, hopefully, for a successful Cup mission.
\”They\’re still babies. I just want to let them mature a bit more.
\”Both dogs give the impression they will be able to handle 498m.
\”The way Excuse Me Jack runs home I\’m sure he\’ll get the distance but I think Redemption Day is going to be the better dog over the longer trip.
\”He has a better run-home time.\”
No-one doubts Hovi\’s ability to get one or both of the smart chasers into the Cup final.
Tagged \’The Magic Man\’, he has a remarkable winning strike rate at Townsville with his small racing team.
Late last month, he had a 48 per cent winning strike rate – 15 wins from 31 starts with just six dogs, although his team has been reduced to three with the retirement of smart chasers Kilcullen and Excitable Jack – the dog that gave Hovi his first Young Guns success late last year.
\”Both are going to GAP, \” he said.
\”I\’ll look for a couple more, but I\’m not in a hurry.\”
For now, the well-respected conditioner has his eyes firmly fixed on a Townsville Cup assault.
He believes both Excuse Me Jack and Redemption Day will measure up.
They\’re still only young, immature sprinters, but Hovi knows they are blessed with enormous potential.