Last month trainer Nick Olive stood in a room filled with Sydney racing’s biggest names and accepted the NSW Country Horse of the Year award on behalf of his stable star Voice Commander.
Voice Commander makes his first race appearance since claiming that honour in Saturday’s Group Two Sebring Sprint (1300m) at Rosehill and despite having low expectations for his return race, Canberra-based Olive can’t wait for the preparation ahead.
“It certainly was a big thrill,” Olive said of collecting the NSW Country Horse of the Year award.
“Being a country trainer, just being a part of that whole night was fantastic.
“I think he definitely deserved the award.”
Voice Commander has been an integral part of Olive’s start to his training career in Canberra with the gelding, and before him Group One-placed filly Zenarta, helping build the trainer’s profile.
“For a country stable, to have had horses like that has been fantastic,” Olive said.
“I’ve been lucky because I’ve always had a good horse in the stable.”
Voice Commander won four races last season including the Listed Frank Underwood Cup (2000m) at Rosehill and Listed Wagga Wagga Gold Cup (2000m).
Olive says the son of Commands has returned in fine fettle but his spring program has yet to be finalised.
“I’m really happy with the way he has come back,” Olive said.
“He’s nowhere near his peak yet and he’s still got a bit of a `wintery’ coat but I’m really happy with him and his work has been terrific.
“I don’t think he’s going to be a chance in this race on Saturday but he needs to kick off somewhere.
“I haven’t really decided what races we’ll target but we’ll probably get him down to Melbourne and try to go for some of the fringe races at Listed level.”
Group One winner Ilovethiscity is the Sebring Sprint favourite at $3.40 on TAB Sportsbet ahead of Warwick Stakes winner Pinwheel ($4.60) and the resuming Queensland Guineas winner Torio’s Quest ($6).
Epsom Handicap-bound Fast Clip, winner of the Tulloch Stakes (2000m) during the autumn, is at $7.50.
Voice Commander is a $51 outsider and will be ridden by Kathy O’Hara.
O’Hara won the two Listed races on Voice Commander last season and also partnered the Olive-trained sprinter Zaratone to victory in the Listed Starlight Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill last month.