Back-to-back city wins for locally owned galloper

The Steve Shanahan and Ray Sanderson owned Heza Gentleman made it back-to-back victories in town when winning at Canterbury on Friday night. Photo: Racing Photography.

Local thoroughbred owners Steve Shanahan and Ray Sanderson are on cloud nine after their in-form galloper, Heza Gentleman, registered his second consecutive victory in town.

Following his front-running victory in the 1550m Benchmark 72 Handicap at Canterbury on November 12, the five-year-old backed up to win the same race at Canterbury on Friday night.

The Nicconi gelding ($6) didn’t have it all go his own way though, and jockey Tyler Schiller was required to sit just off the pace, following favourite Cross Talk ($1.45) for most of the trip, before exploding away on the home straight for a 3.25 lengths win from a fast-finishing Lucky To Win ($41), while Cross Talk faded to finish third. 

Heza Gentleman always looked to have ability, and before his recent run of Canterbury victories, he had won four races and placed a further nine times from 36 starts, winning the Dubbo Cup Prelude and a midweek event at Randwick back in August. 

Trained by Mitch and Desiree Kearney at Hawkesbury, Mitch said his charge had grown a leg in recent weeks to win back-to-back $50,000 races. 

“His improvement has been remarkable,” co-trainer Mitch Kearney said. 

“And he seems to be getting better with each run this preparation.”

Heza Gentleman is a stable favourite, and Kearney said his gelding – that has been up for 14 races this preparation – is feeling as good as ever.

“He is such an easy horse to train, and absolutely lives up to his name,” Mitch Kearney said.

“Importantly, Heza Gentleman is handling his racing so well. He ate up last night and was very bright this morning.

“Whilst he is in such good form and the rain stays around, there’s no point giving him a break.”

Schiller has proven to be the difference in his last two races, with the popular apprentice developing a nice affinity with Heza Gentleman.

“Tyler gave Heza Gentleman a brilliant ride, and he didn’t seem concerned before the race either about the favourite,” Kearney said.

“He rode in the same race Cross Talk won at Hawkesbury and doubted the strength of that field coming into a stronger city race.”

The wet weather looks to have helped Heza Gentleman in recent starts, with the mudlark boasting a very good record on rain affected tracks, and the heavy 10 surface at Canterbury was to his liking. 

The in-form Hawkesbury galloper will now back up in town in two weeks’ time, and the Kearneys have the pleasant problem deciding where Heza Gentleman will attempt a city hat-trick.

“There is the Evening Star (Benchmark 78 Handicap, 1550m) at the next Canterbury night meeting on Friday week, and a Midway (Benchmark 72 Handicap, 1600m) at Randwick the following day,” Kearney said.

“It will largely depend on how the Racing NSW handicapping panel treats him after last night’s win as to where we go.”

Heza Gentleman had a 65 rating – up four points for his Canterbury win on November 12 – going into last night’s race, and undoubtedly will get a similar increase for his latest success.

Regardless of where Heza Gentlaman goes, Steve Shanahan said he was riding the high of being involved with a multiple city-winning horse. 

“This is the first time for me. I’ve had a couple of city winners, a couple of highway winners and benchmark 78 on a Saturday, but this is a bit of ride,” Shanahan said.

It was an emotional win on Friday for Shanahan and the Kearneys, with the small stable dealing with the Hawkesbury floods earlier this year, and since their move to new stables at Hawkesbury, the locally owned runner has been flying the stable’s flag.

“They are just doing a terrific job. You could see on Friday night, the emotion in Mitch and Desiree’s voices and their smiles,” Shanahan said. 

“Mitch had tears in his eyes, and it was absolutely terrific. They are a small stable and that win meant so much to them. They do a great job with my horse, and I couldn’t be happier for them.”