Bush trainer David Smith’s success in Highway races was enough to convince a Mudgee local to task him with an improbable comeback for eight-year-old sprinter Schumacher.
While Schumacher wiled away the days in owner Debra Lynch’s back paddock, Smith trained Distinctive Look to finish third in a Highway Handicap at Randwick in August.
Lynch looked Smith up and began talks about Schumacher returning to work with him to restart a career which was halted after he won a midweek race at Sandown in May 2014.
Distinctive Look then won back-to-back Highway races, the perfect advertisement for Smith who along with his partner Natasha trains a small string of horses on their Mudgee property.
“Coming out and winning those sort of sealed the deal,” Smith said.
Smith was in a state of disbelief when he won twice in Sydney and is now coming to terms with another milestone – his first metropolitan grade runner in Saturday’s Tab.com.au Handicap (1100m) at Randwick.
“Me and my partner are very excited about it,” he said.
“We’re under no illusions what it’s going to take to actually be competitive in Saturday grade but he’s shown us a lot in trackwork at home.
“He’s definitely the quickest horse I’ve ever trained and I dare say probably will ever get to train.”
Schumacher beat Distinctive Look, who Smith is aiming at the Country Championship, by 4-1/2 lengths in a trial at Wellington on Boxing Day.
“He left him for dead and that sealed the deal on coming down for a Saturday race,” Smith said.
Originally trained by Mark Kavanagh, the lightly raced Schumacher has five wins from 14 starts.
“He’s beaten some black-type horses. He’s quite a decent galloper,” Smith said.
He says Schumacher can be a “bit of a rat” when housed in a box, preferring to live in the open spaces where he is thriving.
“He’s just happy as Larry out in his paddock,” Smith said.
“He really loves his work which I was surprised about after 2-1/2 years off and being an eight-year-old.”
Having spent four years working under John O’Shea, Smith now juggles training with his full-time job at Gooree Stud where his partner also works.
“Once we finish up there with riding and work every morning we try to poke home and knock ours over before it gets too hot,” he said.
“We just try to keep them as happy as we can.”