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BRETT LAZZARINI – HOPING ANOTHER DOOR OPENS WITH AN INEXPERIENCED COLT


BRETT Lazzarini might have lost his best performer Wild Chap for the time being, but is looking to a lightly-raced three-year-old to step into the breach.

With the Kembla Grange trainer’s agreement, owner John O’Connor has sent last year’s Group 3 Newcastle Cameron Handicap winner Wild Chap to South Australian trainer John Macmillan to have a crack at the Murray Bridge Gold Cup (1600m) on October 7.

“Wild Chap hurdled the fallen horse (The Mediterranean) when he broke down near the 700m in the Wyong Cup (2100m) last Friday, and did well to finish fifth,” Lazzarini said.

“There aren’t many suitable races for him here at present, and John was keen to send him to South Australia for the Murray Bridge Cup.”

Lazzarini, who has won three races in the last 12 days (Steel Blaze at home on August 26, Bonus Tempus at the Wyong Cup meeting and Mancconi at Queanbeyan last Monday), believes the former has the potential to develop into another star performer for his stable.

He purchased Steel Blaze, a son of Japanese stallion Real Steel (who also sired yesterday’s $100,000 Super Maiden winner Noisy Boy on the Kensington track), for $30,000 at last year’s Inglis Ready2Race sale as an unraced two-year-old.

Lazzarini’s stepson Wyatt picked the colt out at the sale, and trainer kept a share in the colt when he put together a syndicate, which includes former jockey Rod Hardwicke’s ex-wife Jackie, to race him.

At only his fifth start, Steel Blaze broke through in a Midway Maiden (1400m) at home last month and now steps up to Group 3 company in the Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, with Brock Ryan his rider.

“Steel Blaze is a nice big-striding horse, and it’s time to dip his toes into better class in Sydney,” Lazzarini said.

“The 1400m will be too short for him, but we’ve got the 2000m $2m Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes in mind at Randwick on October 26.

“He can go to the Listed Dulcify Stakes (1600m) there at the end of the month and Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) a fortnight later.”

There is a real local flavour to Steel Blaze. Fellow Kembla Grange trainer Kerry Parker prepared the colts dam, the Snitzel mare Aliyana Tilde, throughout her 19-start career.

She won her 1300m Maiden at home in January 2012, was placed in the Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) there in March, was narrowly beaten by Streama in the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) at Randwick the following month, and also finished third in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) there in 2013 at her final start.

Whilst Lazzarini says Steel Blaze has talent, the trainer isn’t short on that commodity either.

In another code, he spent six years steering The Gardens Greyhound Club at Newcastle back on track.

“I was vice-chairman at Wentworth Park and was asked by Greyhound Racing NSW if I would run the Newcastle club for a while as things weren’t going great there,” Lazzarini said.

“They were bankrupt when I took over as chairman, and the club had $600,000 when I left.

“It got to the stage where I couldn’t stretch myself any further as I was also helping Kembla Grange trainer Tyrone Coyle.”

On the urgings of stepson Wyatt (who has shares in a few horses, including Mancconi), Lazzarini took up training again – a career which he had given up two and a half decades earlier following a family tragedy.

Lazzarini will never forget the date his then 17-year-old son Paul and Jason Birney (son of former jockey Graeme and his wife Sue) were both killed in a motor cycle accident.

“It was November 1, 1994; the day Jeune won the Melbourne Cup,” he said.

“I gave racing away after starting only three horses in the 1996-7 season, and had pretty well lost the plot.”

He returned to Sydney from the Northern Rivers, and for a few years travelled back and forth overseas.

Lazzarini also did some building work, having learned the trade with the help of a mate, somehow managing to fit it in during his first training venture when based at Ballina.

Sydney born, Lazzarini recalls attending pony club events as a youngster in the Bankstown district when as many as 300 kids were involved.

“I was keen on the horses, and the pony club were extremely popular back then,” he said.

However, his dreams of becoming a jockey were dashed as, quite simply, he was around at the wrong time.

“I was young and fit, and attended the Apprentices’ School,” he said.

“But I was 51kg, and was told that I was wasting my time as the limit then was 47kg.”

Lazzarini began breaking in horses when only 12 years of age, and rode trackwork for trainer Theo Jacobsen at Rosehill after leaving school at 14 years and three months.

“I worked with Theo for a while and still keep in contact, even though the late Warwick Farm trainer Tony Wildman pinched me off him,” he said.

“Tony offered me a flat when I was 15 or 16, and I worked for him for a few years before joining Geoff Chapman at Rosehill and became his foreman.

“The 1978 Epsom winner Leonotis had retired, but ‘Doc’ still had some good horses such as Motorman, Kaiserman and Time To Fly during my time with him.”

When Lazzarini at 26 decided it was time to branch out on his own, he set up shop at Ballina.

Though he never realised his ambition to become an apprentice, he gained notoriety on the Northern Rivers and in Queensland coincidentally as a result of knowing the late Randwick trainer Theo Green, the renowned master of apprentices.

“I had met Theo through David Campbell, a friend of mine who supplied him with the grey pony he used to ride out into the centre at Randwick to direct his boys riding work,” Lazzarini explained.

“Theo arranged for me to buy a horse he had trained, which had been raced by the Ingham brothers.

“That was Lost Valley, and what a wonderful horse he turned out to be for us.

“Lost Valley was a seven-year-old when we got him, and he raced until 13 and had something like 120 starts.

“We won 10 country cups with him, including a Townsville Cup and Rockhampton Amateurs Cup.”

“He was a marvel; an old freak.”

Lazzarini, after such a lengthy hiatus, resurrected his career in March 2020 and took over Kembla Grange trainer Mick Tubman’s small team when he called it quits.

Ironically, one of the horses he took over – Wild Chap – put his name up in lights again in the thoroughbred industry.

Now, as one door closes, Lazzarini is hoping another opens with Steel Blaze.

*Words John Curtis, September 8, 2023 - Pics supplied*

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