John Crowley has waited a long time to have a horse good enough to run in the race at Randwick named for his grandfather who introduced him to the sport when he was growing up in rural NSW.
For the first time the equine veterinarian and his partner, trainer Wendy Roche, have a runner in the Listed 1200-metre race that carries the family name, the Brian Crowley Stakes.
“We’ve wanted to have a runner in it for years, but we’ve never been close,” Crowley said.
So the pair will watch Mustafa’s debut with more than usual interest when the gelding faces a tough initiation against the likes of the Gary Portelli-trained Group Three-winner Single Bullet.
Mustafa was also nominated for Canterbury on Wednesday but Roche and Crowley decided to set the bar higher on Saturday given the family connection.
Sir Brian Crowley was a grazier, breeder and racing administrator who chaired the Australian Jockey Club from 1962 to 1974.
The Brian Crowley Stakes was first run in 1983, the year following his death.
“He used to take me to races all the time as a kid,” Crowley said.
“He used to do the basic work on them at home, break them in, ride them round the paddock after the sheep and then send them to Randwick.”
Roche has five horses in work at Warwick Farm and went away with a winner the last time she came to Randwick when Chalk won two weeks ago.
“This bloke’s first up but we think he’s pretty handy. It’s a big test but everyone that’s ridden him has said he’s bloody good,” Crowley said.
Mustafa trialled in May and again earlier this month when race jockey, apprentice Rachel King, guided him to a three-length win over 1200-metres at Warwick Farm.
Despite the fact he has never raced before, Mustafa has been backed from $26 to $15 with the TAB this week with Single Bullet the $4 favourite.