Racing News

Smashing Time vying for Group 1 glory in JJ Atkins

Brave Smash’s talented juvenile gelding will bid to become the Yarraman Park-based sire’s first elite-level winner

Trainer Rob Price has a growing confidence that bolt-from-the-blue gelding Smashing Time (Brave Smash) can provide his sire’s first Group 1 and launch his stable’s union with Australian Bloodstock in stellar style in Saturday’s JJ Atkins (Gr 1, 1600m).

Bookmakers have tightened Smashing Time to around the $15 mark for the last juvenile major of the season after he leapt from running third in a modest Kensington two-year-old handicap (1400m) to come fifth of 18 in Queensland’s Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) on June 1.

The latter run changed Price’s mind about spelling the gelding, a decision backed by his further improvement under the Queensland sun.

Price knows Godolphin colt Broadsiding (Too Darn Hot) deserves his dominant odds-on position after storming home in the Sires’ for a third straight win, one start after taking Randwick’s ATC Champagne Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).

But if the Brisbane weather stays fine, as is forecast, Price believes a good track will bring his runner firmly into calculations.

If he can succeed, it could kick off a huge race-to-race double for Yarraman Park – which would stunningly have nothing to do with their flagbearer I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit), just a few weeks short of him claiming a third general sires’ title.

Aside from Smashing Time running in the Atkins for Brave Smash, who joined Yarraman’s roster last year, the other stallion among the stud’s trio – Hellbent (I Am Invincible) – has two strong chances in the Stradbroke Handicap (Gr 1, 1400m) in $11 shot Benedetta and Magic Time, at $13.

Yarraman would also no doubt welcome an all-Hellbent double, with his filly Aemelius currently second-favourite in the JJ Atkins at around $8.

And they wouldn’t say no to I Am Invincible, runner-less in the JJ Atkins, prevailing in the Stradbroke, though that was looking unlikely on Monday. Vinnie still had Zarastro and Nettuno among nominations for Queensland’s $3 million feature, but they were 26th and 30th in the entry order for the 18-horse capacity event.

Aemelius (Hellbent) finished second in Saturday’s The Phoenix (Listed, 1500m) when run down late by Chris Waller’s Imperialist (Churchill), who has noticeably continued to firm for the JJ Atkins since that third-start win to share third-favouritism at around $9, with Kelly Schweida’s El Morzillo (Star Witness).

Amelia’s Jewel’s (Siyouni) half-brother Bosustow (Blue Point) also shares the $15 slot with Smashing Time. Having run third in the VRC Sires’ Produce (Gr 2, 1400m) in March, that colt reverted to a 1350 metres Doomben midweeker to break his maiden last Wednesday – by an emphatic 2.87 lengths – and will likely appreciate the 1600 metres this Saturday.

But still, Price says the once-wayward Smashing Time stands an undeniable chance to supply Brave Smash’s first Group 1, after the three top-tier placings this season of the star performer of his three stakes winners, Kimochi.

Smashing Time – gelded after throwing his rider behind the gates before a Warwick Farm barrier trial that left without him – later debuted with a third over 1100 metres at Kensington on a good 4 on March 27. He won his next start in a 1400 metre 2YO “Super” maiden on a soft 5 at his home track of Kembla Grange, before that Kensington third on a heavy 9.

His fifth in Eagle Farm’s Sires’ came on a deteriorating soft 6 track, with Smashing Time settling near the rear for jockey Tommy Berry and being tightened for room around the home turn as Jamie Kah and Broadsiding made their run wider out. Once in clearer running inside the last 200 metres, Smashing Time finished on solidly to be beaten 2.92 lengths.

Price believes a firmer surface this Saturday will suit his charge perhaps more than Broadsiding, who ran two thirds and a fourth on good 4s before unfurling his current winning hat-trick on a soft 5, a heavy 10 and a soft 6.

“Our run in the Sires’ was super,” Price, who trains with his son Luke, told ANZ Bloodstock News. “He got back and made good ground, then Jamie had us a bit tight on the corner. The track that day was a bit loose, and it was all new for our boy to navigate that. Plus it raced in lanes, and I don’t think we were in the best lane.

“When you get a dry track, they’re not racing in lanes, and the firmer surface will suit our bloke better. Broadsiding is the one to beat, but at the same time he’s there to be beaten. He comes back to a dry track, whereas his best form has been on the wet.

“I do think we need to draw a good gate. Either we draw the middle, or Tommy’s got to ride the race of his life. But our boy is a talented horse, with a lovely long stride, and it’s also a good sign when someone like Tommy Berry sticks with him for three races in a row.”

Smashing Time is raced by a large group of owners, many from the NSW south coast, who’ll be making the trip to Brisbane.

He’s the first horse Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell’s Australian Bloodstock have raced with Price and his co-trainer son Luke.

Australian Bloodstock in fact bred Smashing Time, having imported Brave Smash from Japan for a racing career which included Group 1 victories in Caulfield’s Futurity Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) and Moonee Valley’s Manikato Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) in 2018.

Smashing Time is the fourth foal of former Woodlands Stud maiden winner Trick (Street Cry). The 13-year-old has history with Japanese-bred stallions, having thrown Singapore stakes-placed gelding Super Impact (Real Impact), and having gone to another Australian Bloodstock Japanese import Tosen Stardom (Deep Impact) to throw the yet-to-race filly Stosen.

The Prices bought the yearling Smashing Time for $180,000 through last year’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, though the purchase wasn’t finalised until a couple of weeks afterward.

Price recalled Smashing Time failed a scope at the sale due to a bout of chondritis, which he was happy to let settle.

“After he failed the scope, he had to go back to the farm and later get re-scoped before the sale was confirmed,” he said.

“I wasn’t overly concerned. Chondritis is pretty common, a bit of swelling in the upper airway, and you can often see it at the sales because the horses are kept in tiny boxes and there’s a lot of dust around.

“So we waited till it got better, then found some owners. Then after we broke him in, Jamie Lovett contacted us and said, ‘Is there any of the horse left?’”

Australian Bloodstock bought back in for 25 per cent, hence Smashing Time bears their famous colours of blue with a white horseshoe and black and white checked sleeves.

Price’s initial interest was piqued as he’s a devoted fan of Japanese stallions. This is the third Brave Smash he’s trained, while perhaps his finest performer was the ill-fated Count De Rupee (Real Impact), a Group 2 winner of seven races and $2.6 million in prize-money, and his former Arrowfield shuttling sire’s second-best performer worldwide.

“I do love that Japan’s breeding scene is very regulated, whereby they can’t breed from anything that’s too unruly or has bad airways,” Price said. “I’ve always said the two main things are feet and airways: they need something to land on, and if they can’t breathe, they’re in all sorts.”

While Luke Price usually does the stable’s travelling, his young family – with four small children – has led to his father wintering in Brisbane.

It’s been a lucrative few weeks, though also frustrating. Our Gold Hope (Lope De Vega) was only going to have one run in Brisbane, but the strength of her fourth in the ANZ Bloodstock News The Roses (Gr 2, 2000m) made the Prices push on to last Saturday’s Queensland Oaks (Gr 1, 2200m).

The grey looked the winner of that $700,000 feature at the 100-metre mark, only to have to settle for second to $101 bolter Socks Nation (Sioux Nation). A long neck the other way would have made quite a difference, though the $126,000 second prize helped salve the wounds.

Now Smashing Time – who’d similarly been intended for just one Brisbane run – has the chance to go one better, or at least pay some more travel bills in the $1 million JJ Atkins.

“We had a nomination in for the Atkins, but we were actually going to take him home after the Sires’,” Price said. “But the way he came through the run, and he’s done so well while in Queensland, we decided to keep going.

“It’s true what they say about the Queensland sun. The horses have done very well up here. Plus, it’s great getting away with them, where it’s just me looking after two horses. You get lots of one-on-one time, and the horses like that. You’re hand-walking them everywhere, rather than them just going on the treadmill. They get a bit spoiled, and there’s no doubt they grow in confidence.”

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