Hoffman stable considers Country Stampede tilt
Mon 11 October 2021
By Jordan Gerrans
Top Atherton Tablelands trainer Sharlee Hoffman would love every galloper in her stable to be as consistent as gelding Sylvester.
The son of Epaulette scorched his home track on Saturday afternoon at Tolga, breaking the track record over the speedy 1000-metre journey, as he put his name in contention for the Country Stampede Final later this year in Brisbane.
Sylvester - a six-year-old brown gelding - upset hot favourite Tycoon Thunder in the Open Handicap on Saturday in a time of 54.92 seconds, the quickest time ever recorded at the track over the sprint trip.
With gallopers needing five country starts to be eligible for the Stampede Final in December, Hoffman will need to turn her attention to the non-TAB scene in the coming weeks if she wants to travel Sylvester to Brisbane later this year.
In 13 starts for the Hoffman yard, Sylvester’s worst result is fifth at Cairns in late March this year, beaten just over four lengths, on top of four victories and four other minor placings.
Hoffman thinks the CS Final - to be run over 1100 metres at Doomben for $75,000 - might just be a little too far for her consistent galloper, thinking he prefers 1000 metres, but will consider making the journey south.
"He was in the other day at the Cairns Amateurs but he was a little foot sore and there was not many races around for him so we freshened him up,” Hoffman said.
“We looked to Atherton and it paid off.
“He is a pretty cruisy horse, he is such a nice horse to ride, he eats up, he is a pleasure to have around the stable.
“You just need to keep him happy and look after him because he is a really good horse.”
Sylvester’s victory on Saturday was part of a winning double for the Hoffman barn, as well as a treble for in-form stable rider Lacey Morrison.
“It was my first winner back under my last name and to break the track record, it was really great,” Hoffman said.
“The track was in good condition, they had irrigated it and that, it was just perfect.
“I was pretty impressed with the way they presented the track, they ran well and pulled up well after.”
Sylvester is raced and was previously trained by Beaudesert trainer Ben Ahrens, who the Hoffman stable have developed a strong relationship with in recent years, with several gallopers making their way from Beaudesert to Tolga.
With FNQ heating up ahead of summer, Hoffman explained she had been swimming many of her horses at a dam not from the Tolga track, which is proving to be a benefit for many in her team.
Stablemate Maquereau goes in search of his second straight Innisfail Cup this coming weekend, which could be the key for Sylvester eventually doing some racing in the South East of the state.
While Maquereau is unlikely to have had enough country starts to eligible for the Country Cups Challenge, which Innisfail is a qualifier for, Hoffman may take the stayer for a short campaign in Brisbane around the time of the Stampede Final, with Sylvester potentially heading down as a travel companion.
Maquereau competed in the 2020 Country Cups Challenge Final, running fifth behind fellow FNQ runner Paniagua.
In other qualifiers raced over the weekend, the Moranbah stable of country racing stalwart Bevan Johnson landed Necessitas in the Country Cup Challenge Final following a photo-finish in the Emerald 100 for 2021.
Run over 1850 metres, Johnson’s Necessitas just got the bob ahead of Li’l Rodge, trained by Craig Smith.
Johnson’s stable loves heading to town with runners, Hanover Square winning the 2019 edition of the $125,000 Battle of the Bush Final at Eagle Farm.
Over 20 heats will take place across regional Queensland for the Country Cups Challenge and Country Stampede with the best horses in country racing chasing a berth to battle it out in a Metropolitan final held at Doomben during the TAB Queensland Summer Racing Carnival.
Three qualifiers for the CCC Final will be raced this weekend at Wondai, Innisfail and Blackall.