Monday’s Grafton meeting represents an important stepping stone for promising three-year-old Southern Shimmer.
Prepared at Taree by master country trainer Ross Stitt, the gelding tackles the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club Benchmark 65 Hcp (1620m).
Southern Shimmer will then head to Wagga for the $35,000 Murrumbidgee Guineas (1600m) on May 5 and his main goal, the $40,000 Grafton Guineas (1600m) on July 14.
Stitt, who put the early polish on dual Group One winning filly Heavenly Glow and topline galloper Youthful Jack, makes no secret of his opinion the son of Southern Image.
“He’s the best horse I’ve had since Youthful Jack, no doubt,” Stitt said.
“He goes pretty good.
“And Robert Thompson has come on board too. Robbie thinks exactly the same.
“The horse is probably still six months away from maturing.
“Physically he’s a big horse – 16.3 hands – but he hasn’t filled out in the right places yet.
“When he does, and strengthens up, I think we’re going to have a nice horse on our hands.”
Southern Shimmer has a long way to go to reach the heights of Heavenly Glow (nine wins and $792,360 prize money) and 12-time winner Youthful Jack, who earned $718,300, but like Stitt’s star pair, he could prove yet another bargain buy.
After the horse was passed in at the Inglis Classic sale, Stitt negotiated a deal and got Southern Shimmer for $16,000.
He is raced by Stitt’s brother Max, also a part-owner of Stitt’s warhorse, Precise Timing, who won 18 races, country Cups galore and a tick over $900,000.
“As a yearling he was very correct, still immature but well bred on the dam’s side,” Stitt said.
“And the price was right!”
Southern Shimmer underpinned his promise winning three races in succession last campaign before being put aside.
After resuming at Taree on March 4, the gelding scored an emphatic length win over 1400 metres at the same track on March 28.
“They (handicappers) haven’t missed him at the weights (57kg) and they put him up four ratings points after Taree,” Stitt said.
“Fair dinkum, they’re crucifying promising young horses like him.
“If he comes through tomorrow we’ll go to Wagga. I worked him on the course proper Tuesday. He worked well, very well indeed.”