Promising rookie Loves a Hassle might still be learning his trade but loves to punch above his weight too, trainer Lee Van Den Bos says.
The four-year-old gelding will run in the Hawkesbury Highway Handicap (1100m) for country-trained horses on Saturday, going for his third win in as many starts.
It’s an ambitious step up from Mudgee on April 16 when he ran for the first time in nearly a year after recovering from surgery on a chipped knee.
But Van Den Bos says Loves A Hassle is in “ship shape” and punches above his weight against more exposed competitors.
“It’s going to be very competitive. I would have liked to have drawn a closer barrier (than nine),” Van Den Bos, who combines training with her job as a nurse in Orange, told AAP.
“But we wouldn’t be going down if I didn’t think he was competitive.
“A lot of horses he’s racing against, they’ve won more races. But their form’s been exposed.
“He’s improving all the time. He’s inexperienced but he’s learning and he’s learning quick.”
At Mudgee, Loves A Hassle beat fellow rookie Williamson by two lengths in a Class One Handicap (1100m).
“We’d had a lot of wet weather. We hadn’t been able to get on a track. He hadn’t had jump-outs or anything,” Van Den Bos said.
“He went into that race probably 80 per cent fit.”
Loves A Hassle first started at Narromine last May and won by almost two lengths carrying the then-unknown knee injury.
His easy temperament makes him a stand-out among the seven other horses Van Den Bos trains.
“I’ve got two or three (others) which have got the ability but they get a bit full-on when they get to a saddling enclosure,” she said.
“He just does things. You don’t have to ask him him to do things, he just does them. He just does it naturally.”
Van Den Bos hasn’t decided what to do with Loves A Hassle’s after Hawkesbury.
“If he goes well, he’s still eligible for another Highway,” she said.
“The way my husband and I look at it, if he’s good enough to run down there in those races and run places, it’s better than running here (around Orange).”