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MICK Attard trained Hawkesbury’s last winner of the previous season – and now the first of the new one.

After clinching a record 200 winners for the Hawkesbury training base when Crossfire Road scored at Muswellbrook last Sunday, he kicked off the 2023-24 racing year by scoring with Putt For Dough ($6.50) at Kembla Grange yesterday.

The Winning Rupert five-year-old overcame an awkward start to trounce his rivals in the Provincial Benchmark 68 Handicap (1200m), posting his third success from only nine starts.

Putt For Dough also blundered just after the jump, but quickly mustered speed to get into a good position, and won by nearly two and a half lengths from local pair, $3 favorite C’Mon Mate and $31 outsider Single Crown.

Attard’s gelding has now earned nearly $71,000 prizemoney since his octogenarian owner Bernie Young bought him online through last October for $5000 just after he had finished sixth in a field of eight in a Tamworth Maiden (1000m) when on debut.

Putt For Dough was Lot 13, but certainly hasn’t been unlucky for his new owner, who didn’t like his original name of Vermeulen and changed it.

But it has taken all of Attard’s training skill to win races with him.

“Putt For Dough is his own worst enemy at the barriers,” he said today.

“And it takes two handlers to keep him walking when he gets to the races. He hates the tie-up stalls.

“Being such a difficult horse to handle, I’m sure that’s why his previous trainer didn’t persevere with him.

“Thank goodness Putt For Dough can gallop.”

The gelding’s three wins this season have all been at the provincials (Gosford and Wyong in January beforehand), and now may get the chance to show he can measure up in town.

“There’s a Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1200m) on Winx Stakes day at Royal Randwick in a fortnight, and we might have a crack at that,” Attard said.

“He usually has an easy three to four days in one of our paddocks after each race.

“If we go to Randwick, it will be interesting to see if he likes the bigger tie-up stalls there.”

Attard trained five winners last season – his best since relocating back to NSW from Central Queensland four years ago – and is looking forward to hopefully even better results this season.

“I’ve got 13 horses in work, including some nice early two-year-olds and some tried horses who were online buys,” he said.

It is just over two years since Attard sustained life-threatening injuries on the first morning of a new season (August 1, 2021) when double-barrelled by a horse (West Elk) he was getting ready to race that afternoon at Kembla Grange.

Not only he has made an outstanding recovery, but hasn’t lost his sense of humour either.

Jockey Jean Van Overmeire, who rode Putt For Dough at Kembla Grange and clinched a treble in the process, also rode former Victorian mare Crossfire Road in her Muswellbrook victory last Sunday.

“Jean has had only the two rides for me for two wins,” Attard said.

“He is in great form, and is also riding Gypsy King (1300m Lander Toyota Maiden Plate) for me at Hawkesbury on Tuesday), and I’ll call him a genius if he wins on him.”

Gypsy King has raced 28 times for seven placings; the latest when third over 1300m at Kembla Grange on July 27.

HOOFNOTE: Attard is heading back to Muswellbrook on Friday with Crossfire Road, hoping to clinch back-to-back wins at the track.

Newcastle trainers Jason Deamer and Kris Lees were both in the city winning list at Rosehill Gardens yesterday.

Deamer landed the Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1100m) with Hard To Say ($6.50), beating fellow Newcastle trainer Nathan Doyle’s Xpresso ($9), whilst Lees’ ultra-consistent Brudenell ($6) further bolstered his impressive record (now six wins from 11 starts) by edging out $3.10 favorite Time To Boogie in the Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m).

*Words John Curtis, August 6, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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