Drawing the outside gate is not ideal for Esgrimidor at Warwick Farm but it’s the least of Todd Howlett’s worries.
The Cessnock trainer is more concerned about the six-year-old jumping cleanly for Josh Adams after Esgrimidor has left his jockey in the stalls at two of his past three starts.
Howlett was puzzled by the 19-start veteran’s non-compliance at Scone and Randwick and is trusting Esgrimidor to make amends in a Benchmark Handicap (1100m) on Saturday.
“I think he’s just over anxious, a bit keen,” Howlett said.
Esgrimidor was ordered to run in a barrier trial after he reared in the gates at Randwick on June 24 and jumped without Blake Spriggs and passed with flying colours at Muswellbrook on Tuesday.
“He reared up and Blake went to get off. It was just bad timing. There’s no nastiness in the horse,” Howlett said.
At Scone in mid-May, he refused to race with apprentice Blaike McDougall once the gates opened.
Howlett’s apprentice Mikayla Weir got him rolling in the barrier trial following that indiscretion.
Mikayla trialled him the other day and he was fine,” Howlett said.
“We’ve put him through the gates at home as well.
“I’m pretty confident he’s right but they make liars out of you don’t they?”
Despite those glitches Howlett has been satisfied with Esgrimidor’s preparation and thought the $35 chance with the TAB could add to his five career wins.
“I’ve been happy with the way he’s going. It’s nice to see him in that sort of competition, back in Sydney in that grade,” he said.
Howlett was philosophical about the gelding’s barrier 12 on Saturday.
“It isn’t the best, but he’s a go-forward horse,” he said. “There’s not too many instructions for Josh.”
Weir rides one of Howlett’s two runners in the Highway Handicap (1200m), Nic’s Vendetta.
The four-year-old is racing in his sixth Highway and will be looking to improve on second placings in November and January as the $7 second favourite behind the Melanie O’Gorman-trained Suncraze ($1.70).
“His first-up run was really good over 900 metres,” Howlett said.
“He’s got a lot of weight (61kg) but I still expect him to go well.”
Weir’s claim brings Nic’s Vendetta in with 58kg.
Howlett’s other contender is three-year-old Magic Beneteau to be ridden by Adams.