You wouldn’t win any prizes trying to guess where young Mudgee trainer, Cameron Crockett, was going to spend his Sunday.
It was just a year ago that Crockett ventured to White Park for the Scone Yearling Sale and spied a colt by the Lonhro stallion, Benfica, that was part of the Guntawang Stud draft.
Crockett thought there was a bit of quality about the colt and was surprised when he managed to secure the youngster for only $4,000.
Clearly Crockett saw something the rest didn’t, and while others might have questioned his judgement – even at that price – the Mudgee mentor didn’t come down in the last shower.
Crockett is the son of famous horse breaker, Max Crockett, and used to break horses himself for Gooree Park Stud – horses like Smart Missile among them – before taking up full time training at the end of last year.
“I’ve got 12 in work and 30 on the books,” Crockett reveals, adding, “Des Kennedy and a bunch of owners from Mudgee decided to form a syndicate and come into the Benfica yearling.
“He really didn’t look like he’d be a 2YO but he was progressing really well in the stable and you might as well make hay when the sun shines.
“I worked him with an older horse that won a couple and he had him well and truly covered, so it was decided to have a crack.”
That leap of faith was justified last Friday when the Benfica 2YO – now called Barbass – raced away with the $100,000 Inglis Challenge at Scone.
With a seventh on debut last December and three successive country placings leading into Friday’s race, Barbass has now won $90,350 in prizemoney – around 22 times the asking price as a yearling.
“This game really is like drawing tickets out of a hat,” Crockett muses. “There were three Benficas at the Scone sale last year. They each cost more than this bloke but neither of the others has raced yet.”
And how does Barbass rate at this early stage?
“I’ve had a city winner with Are Your Sure, but Barbass does seem to have plenty of potential.
“He’s been 12 months in the making and I’m out here (at Scone) looking for another one as good.”
And, if Crockett is off to a flying start with Barbass, so too is Benfica who now has five runners from his first crop, with four having won or placed.
The winner of three races as a 2YO, including the Group One TJ Smith in Brisbane, Benfica covered sizeable books for the first three years, but suffered from the year four syndrome and struggled with numbers from his Darley base last spring.
However, Benfica has been granted a new lease of life with his relocation to new Queensland operation, Aquis Farm, a state of the art facility based at Canungra where it’s likely his new found ‘fame’ will find plenty of fans in the northern state.