Jockey Scott Thurlow knows Mudgee Black Nugget Cup favourite Southern Shimmer better than anyone, the gelding’s trainer Ross Stitt says.
Thurlow, just back from injury, takes over the reins from regular rider Robert Thompson on the seven-time winning four-year-old in Sunday’s $20,000 1600m feature.
“Robert is up north for the Cairns amateurs and taking in a bit of fishing. Life’s tough at the top,” Taree-based Stitt joked.
“Scottie rides Southern Shimmer trackwork and has had a lot to do with educating the horse.
“He knows him better than anyone.”
Thurlow was aboard the son of Southern Image early in his career and last rode the gelding when a resuming fifth at Taree on March 4 this year, but is yet to win a race on Southern Shimmer.
“That should change Sunday,” Stitt said.
“Scott jokes he only gets the horse fit for Robert Thompson.
“Since missing the Taree Cup I backed off him a bit but I’m really happy with him, very happy indeed.
“He’s held his condition and fitness well. He’s a great-winded horse. He looks an absolute treat.
“It hasn’t been the best of programs, with interruptions, but Scott thinks the horse is still on the improve. So do I.
“He’s getting stronger and stronger. That’s his biggest asset, especially when he fully matures.”
Southern Shimmer received 57.5kg in the Black Nugget Cup and starts from barrier two.
“About a half-kilo more than I thought,” Stitt said of the weight.
“Being on the fresh side from the good barrier I don’t expect him to get back as far as normal.
“His racing style has improved. The last couple of runs he’s been able to race a little closer to the speed, not drop right out.
“While he’s still learning, not giving away as much start and still being able to produce his finishing sprint has been encouraging.”
Main rival Pesci, from the Mack Griffith yard, is coming off wins at Wellington, Quirindi and last start in the Narromine Cup (1600m) on August 14.
Following Mudgee, Southern Shimmer tackles the $45,000 Dubbo Cup (September 18) then Stitt plans to take him to Brisbane before spelling him and getting him ready for the deferred $60,000 Taree Cup (2000m) on December 18.