Mister Marmalade’s last road trip to a Highway Handicap ended with a near-death experience, so just making it to the barriers at Rosehill on Saturday will be a minor victory.
The four-year-old gelding was trucking along nicely for a Sydney debut at Randwick on Chipping Norton Stakes Day in February until fate, and a serious car accident, intervened.
Then Scone-based trainer Greg Bennett’s float and ute were t-boned and written off when pushed into a telegraph pole and brick wall by the impact with another vehicle.
Fortunately Bennett and two staff escaped with whiplash, while Mister Marmalade suffered bruising and lacerations.
Mister Marmalade makes the trip from Goulburn this weekend because Danny Williams took over as trainer when Bennett joined the Queensland-based Aquis Farm after the Country Championships final in April.
Williams was confident the journey would not put Mister Marmalade off his stride, given he has travelled in a float since the crash and will be in a transporter on Saturday.
“He travelled down here (in a float) and never moved an eyelid. That’ll give him a lot of confidence. He’s come through it quite well.”
However, in the eight weeks since Mister Marmalade relocated to Goulburn, Williams attributed one anxious moment to the collision.
“We had one day where he had a bit of a panic attack in the barriers. That was probably down to the accident because he’s such a kind, gentle horse.
“He’s going quite nice now, there’s no signs of any concern from the accident.”
Mister Marmalade had a 15-week spell to recover from the trauma and Williams has not set the bar too high, realising he has never won first-up.
The 1400m distance is also short of his optimum range.
“He’s going to be much better suited up to 1800-2000 metres. He’s already showing that in his work,” Williams said.
“Whatever he does on Saturday he’ll take a lot of benefit from.”
A good track at Rosehill will suit and the remainder of this preparation also hinges on the weather cooperating over winter.
“We worked him on a soft track the other day and he struggled, we’re just hopeful the weather stays on our side.”
If that scenario unfolds a 1500m Highway at Rosehill in a fortnight will be on Mister Marmalade’s agenda.