An enforced change of training regime may spark veteran sprinter King Cougar at Oamaru on Friday.
Steve Tyler’s private Kaiapoi training track has been under water for almost the past month, forcing the trainer to utilise alternate venues to condition Alamosa nine-year-old King Cougar for Friday’s feature One Smart Coffee/Hireworx Oamaru 1400.
The former Manawatu galloper has won two of his seven races since joining Tyler’s stable in December 2020, the most recent of those at Invercargill in April last year, an extended break from the winner’s circle that the trainer hopes to remedy at Oamaru.
“It’s been a little while since he’s won but since that last win he’s run second in a Hazlett Stakes (Listed, 1200m) and he’s been all around it in some very good open handicap fields,” said Tyler, who races King Cougar with his wife Emma.
“He’s a terrific bread-and-butter horse who has earned a decent bit of prizemoney for us. If I had 10 horses like this, it wouldn’t take long before I’m in a position to be spending all my time catching crayfish and fishing.”
Canterbury’s big-wet July has taken its toll on Tyler’s Kaiapoi track, forcing him to work King Cougar between fellow North Canterbury trainer Centaine Spittle’s track, Woodend beach and the Rangiora racetrack.
“It’s been so wet and horrible but we’ve sorted the drainage issues out now,” Tyler said.
“The water table has just been so high and the track has been consistently under a foot of water for the past three weeks, but I’ve dug some drains out and got the water moving now.
“It’s only 10 minutes on the truck to go to any of those places but when you’ve got a training track on your doorstep, you can’t beat that and it makes it a longer day and a more expensive day.
“But he ran a good third last start the other day so it’s not harming his form and he’s really full of himself at the moment.”
That third placing was behind 5.55 length winner Midnight Runner and Chokito in the Dave Allen Memorial (1200m) and Tyler was pleased with his progress since.
“It was a good enough run at Oamaru last time though I was a touch disappointed he didn’t finish a little closer,” Tyler said.
“That’s just him. As he’s got older, he’s got a few more tricks up his sleeve and sometimes doesn’t put in as good as he can.
“He carries on at home like a two-year-old. He comes to the gate to get ready for his work and he takes off around the paddock when you let him go.
“He can still be a bit of a handful. He’ll try and walk on top of you. He’s still a big kid but I suppose he has got a bit more placid as he’s got older.”
Riccarton apprentice Megan Taylor will take 4kg off King Cougar’s book weight of 61kg to be just 3kg above the carded minimum.
“I knew he’d get 61kg but I thought he’d probably push everything else down to 54 (kg) but the way it’s worked out he’ll actually carry less weight than the second top-weighted horse after Megan’s claim.”
Tyler will also produce Midnight Jane in the Norwood Farm Machinery/Delectable Bakery Oamaru 1200, the Zoffany six-year-old mare winning her maiden on the track last month by 8.75 lengths.
“Lisa Allpress rode her perfectly last time. She had been skipping four and five lengths clear on the turn before that and getting run down so I said to Lisa to just hold her up a bit longer,” he said.
“She’s got an explosive turn of foot when you push the button and Lisa came back and said she thought she’d hit the front too soon at the 300m but she’d kept up a strong gallop and it was a very nice win.
“She did miss a bit of work with an issue with her foot after that race and she is pretty fresh so I just hope she doesn’t run out of puff.”
Tyler has four in work but will welcome another five to his team next Monday now the drainage work on his track has been taken care of.