By Bren O'Brien
Sunshine Coast trainer Tom Bourke is hoping to cash in on the brilliant run the first crop of Better Than Ready have been on when he debuts Better Than Magic at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
The Lyndhurst Stud Farm stallion has had an excellent start on the racetrack, with eight winners from 19 runners so far to lead the first-season sire tables in terms of both winners and prizemoney at this stage of the season.
He had four runners in last Saturday's Magic Millions 2YO Classic, a remarkable effort for a stallion who stands for just $9000.
Better Than Ready's first crop were particularly popular at last year's March Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast with 30 sold in total and Bourke and George Attard went to work early, securing Better Than Magic for $26,000 as Lot 3.
"We bought him at the sales at the March sales last year. He was a nice big horse, big and strong. He walked out very nice and he looked the part," Bourke told TDNAusNZ.
Better Than Magic is out of Imagica (Shedad), who has already produced the dual winner of the Listed Weetwood Hcp Miss Imagica (Hidden Dragon) as well as five other winners.
Better character shines through
Like most of the Better Than Readys, he has been an easy horse to deal with, making his education a straight forward process. However, Bourke admits he is not your typical 2-year-old and he may need a bit more time to grow into himself before showing his best.
"He's pretty good to deal with, he doesn't do anything too silly." Trainer, Tom Bourke
"He's pretty good to deal with, he doesn't do anything too silly," he said. "He's probably a little bit heavy, he won't have too many runs as a 2-year old as he's a big horse. He's 450kgs already. He's had a few little issues with that," he said.
Those issues have meant a couple of false starts in terms of where Bourke wanted to kick his career off, but while he was keen to be cautious with Better Than Magic, his recent work and jumpouts have convinced the trainer that he is up to a debut in a 1000m $75,000 QTIS race in town.
"His work has been good, he had a couple of jumpouts and he went pretty good in them. Hopefully he can take it to the races," he said.
"Hopefully he can take it to the races." - Tom Bourke
"He wasn't going to go to town and then he hurt himself, so that was when I had to change plans a bit. The only other races coming up are 1200s and I didn't want to race him over that distance first up, so that's why he is going to town."
"I'm thinking the bigger track will help him. He's a big horse, a big striding fella, so I'm hoping it will help him."
Bourke gets some backing
In-form jockey Mark Du Plessis, fresh from his $1m Magic Millions QTIS win on Chapter And Verse (Rothesay) last week, will have just his second ride for the stable on Better Than Magic.
Bourke and owner Attard first linked up through the horse Drumbeat's Choice (Drumbeats), who has won five of his 39 starts and their success there convinced Attard to back the former Rockhampton trainer further by buying four yearlings at the March Sale.
That makes him the major owner for Bourke, who only has seven horses in work.
Back on the Rocky road
Eagle eyes will recognise Bourke's colours from his star galloper Rocky King (Easy Rocking), who retired only 12 months ago. A winner of 17 races and over $600,000 in prizemoney, Rocky King took Bourke on a terrific ride which included runs on Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley and Oaks Day at Flemington.
"I'm hoping one of these 2-year-olds stand up and take his place, but it will be very hard to that," he said.
Asked about what made Rocky King such a special horse, Bourke said he was simply straight forward to deal with.
"It was just his attitude. He was a lovely horse to do anything with. He'd float well, travel well. He just poked about. There were never any dramas," he said.