If ever a horse and trainer combination deserved to add another win to their name, it is trainer Steve Tregea and his seven-year-old gelding Niccanova … and the pair will get the chance to set the record straight when Niccanova contests The Buffering, a $200 000 event at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
In terms of race wins, it has been a barren twelve months for Niccanova since he won the Listed Bernborough on December 28 last year … but that statistic doesn’t even tell half of the story.
In the five starts following that Bernborough win … stretching over the next seven months … Niccanova finished second four times and third on the other occasion.
His notable runner-up finishes during that period came in the Listed Sunshine Coast Cup, in the Group 2 Victory Stakes (Behind Victorem) and in the Group 3 Eagle Farm Mile (behind Gaulois), but it was his third placing in the Stradbroke (when finishing less than half a length behind Tyzone), in his first attempt at Group 1 company, that firmly cemented Niccanova’s credentials as a top line performer in Queensland.
Niccanova then tackled a four-start campaign in Sydney where he ran in the Winx Stakes and The Epsom (both Group 1 races against the very best) and in the Theo Marks and the Shannon Stakes … both Group 2 contests. He was never disgraced, but equally never threatened to trouble the judge in any of those contests.
Back with Tregea (for three of those four Sydney runs Niccanova was in the care of trainer Craig Carmody), Niccanova has had four runs since returning to Queensland and has been getting closer to the desired result with every start.
He finished 5.10 lengths back in the Keith Noud (behind the track-record breaking run of Jonker over a distance short of his best), 3.80 lengths back in the Mooloolaba Cup (behind the more than useful Ballistic Boy) and was 3.40 lengths adrift in the Lough Neagh (behind Soxagon) … before finishing 0,20 lengths behind the mighty The Harrovian (who was winning for the eleventh time in succession) in his last start in the Bernborough a week ago.
In that race Jockey Michael Cahill had a second throw at the stumps to try and secure Niccanova back-to-back wins in the Bernborough but his protest, on the grounds of alleged interference from the 100m, was dismissed.
Backing up this week should not be a problem and Niccanova’s honesty and consistent commitment should carry him right into contention inside the final 200m.
If Niccanova does win on Saturday, the $116 000 first prize will take his career earnings to $995 150 leaving him just tantalising shy of the mighty $1 million prize-money earnings mark.
It might have a couple of ‘what might have been’ stories in there, but the fact that Niccanova will take a race-record of nine wins, eight seconds and four thirds from thirty-six starts into Saturday’s contest speaks volumes both for Niccanova’s toughness as a competitor and Tregea’s ability to get the most out of the talented son of Nicconi.