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DUGGAN SET FOR ANOTHER CRACK AT CHAMPIONSHIPS




GOSFORD trainer Adam Duggan thought he had a potential Provincial Championships horse four years ago – but it didn’t work out!

The aptly-named Sir Elton (by Your Song), whom the trainer went beyond his budget to pay $175,000 for in Melbourne as a yearling in 2017, won his first three starts at Gosford, Wyong and Randwick in 2019 and looked a real Championships hope.

But he didn’t reproduce that earlier form and failed to fire in the 2020 Gosford Qualifier (1200m), which had to be transferred to Newcastle because of wet weather, and finished eighth to Asharani runner-up Through The Cracks subsequently won the Final for fellow Gosford trainer Angela Davies).

“Unfortunately Sir Elton had some issues, and was never able to reach his full potential,” Duggan said. “He had fetlock problems and then a throat issue.”

Connections knocked back sizeable Hong Kong offers when he was winning, but his trainer says that he may not have passed a stringent veterinary test to head overseas even if it was agreed to sell him.

Whilst Sir Elton never made it to Hong Kong, Duggan, with some touch of irony, now is preparing a horse who actually began his career in Hong Kong, had one unplaced start there, has blossomed since returning to Australia and coming under his care – and is ready for a crack at the 2024 Provincial-Midway series..

Sold as a yearling for $1m plus, Diamond Diesel won a Rosehill Gardens 900m barrier trial in January 2020 before going to “Honkers”, where he ran seventh in a 1200m Rating 60 event at Sha Tin in June the following year.

Diamond Diesel suffered a stress fracture to a shoulder, and after returning to Australia, joined Duggan’s boutique Gosford stable after now Hong Kong-based Mark Newnham asked if he was interested in training some horses for TCR (Derek Tam and Peter Coffey Racing).

Duggan won a 1200m Maiden on his home track first-up with Diamond Diesel (as a late five-year-old) in July, 2022, and has continued to do a fantastic job with him.

From 14 starts in Oz, Diamond Diesel has won five races – the last two in succession, at Canterbury and Gosford – and been placed six times. Only once has he finished further back than fourth.

The gelding’s current form deservedly has earned him a shot at his home track 1200m Qualifier on March 16 for both eligible provincial and Midway-trained horses.

“Diamond Diesel’s benchmark rating rose to 78 (it was 65 last June) after he won the Malcolm Cusick Stakes (1200m Class 4 Handicap) at Gosford on December 28,” Duggan said.

“So we had to make a decision which way to go with him, and opted for the Provincial-Midway Championships.

“He had a couple of weeks off, is in good order and will trial at Wyong nine days before the Gosford Qualifier.

“As Diamond Diesel has won the maximum five races to be eligible for the Championships, we couldn’t run him again before Gosford, and in any case he reacts well fresh.”

Diamond Diesel also goes well at his home track, having won twice and been placed twice from four starts there.

The first two placegetters at Gosford automatically secure places in the 15-horse field for the $1m Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 13.

Duggan’s move to put blinkers on another TCR and ex-Hong Kong horse Border Control paid dividends when he led throughout to score at Canterbury last Friday night, posting his fourth success and first in town.

“We’ll keep him fresh for a Midway Benchmark 72 Handicap (1200m) at Rosehill the same day as the Gosford Qualifier,” Duggan said. “It’s a suitable race being for five-year-olds and upwards.”

He is also doing his utmost to achieve what will be a career highlight if he can win a race with Peak, another of TCR’s horses who won three (including two at Newcastle) of his first seven starts for Hawkes Racing, before going to Hong Kong where he suffered a tendon injury, did not race and was “retired”.

When the now seven-year-old returned to the races for Duggan at Warwick Farm on January 26, it was his first start since scoring at Sandown on March 11, 2020.

The now seven-year-old has had two 1000m starts on the comeback trail, is getting more race seasoned after such a lengthy absence, and will line up next in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill on Wednesday week.

Story John Curtis, February 18, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos

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