Confirmed to continue training the classy stayer following the auction of all remaining Patinack Farm runners last week, trainer John Thompson has revealed he is thrilled with the condition of Hooked ahead of this weekend’s featured Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
Hitting exceptional form over the 2014 Autumn Carnival, Hooked has returned to racing in similarly slick form this season, highlighted by an exceptional turn of foot in the final straight at Newcastle to win the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) most recently on September 17th.
Appearing likely to lose the Casino Prince entire from his training ranks, Thompson told The Daily Telegraph he was thrilled when new owner Sean Buckley had retained his services and is excited by the prospects of maiden Group 1 glory on Saturday.
“He (Buckley) rung me up about three weeks ago with some questions about the horse because he was keen on him, and I got to know him that way,” Thompson said.
“A couple of days ago he said ‘I’m so impressed with you, if I buy this horse, I’m going to leave him with you.
“I was really rapt. I was worried when the first bid was $450,000.
“But the horse is great, he’s come through his last win in outstanding order and it was a very soft win that day.
“I got Sam Clipperton to gallop him on Saturday morning, just to get a feel for the horse. On Tuesday, I wanted Blake Shinn back on him, just to get his opinion if the horse had improved and he agreed with me and he was a super chance on Saturday.”
Securing three wins and one minor from just 18 competitive starts so far, Hooked finished fifth in the Listed Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) first-up this year, and while failing to beat a single runner home in the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) on March 1st, quickly found his feet in finishing a credible fifth in both the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) and Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) before placing third in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Running on from the rear of the field to finish fourth amongst classy company in the Canterbury Hurlstone Handicap (1400m) first-up this time in, the stallion out of Absolute Lure finished a luckless seventh when blocked for a run in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) in his only other start prior to the Cameron Handicap.
Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering the best odds on the 2014 Epsom Handicap, for which Hooked is rated a generous $17 chance of success, or $4 to run a place.
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