Winning return: Ben Looker returns to the winner’s stall with Art D’Amour after the gelding produced a stunning run to win Friday’s Country Championship Preview at Scone.Unbeaten four-year-old Art D’amour will be chasing his fifth win in a row when he lines up in the $150,000 Hunter and North West Country Championships qualifier at Scone this Sunday.
The Cody Morgan-trained gelding is coming off a strong first-up win in the 1300m Country Championships Prelude at the same track on 17 February.
He missed the start and sat third last for most of the race but flashed home to snatch the win from All Summer Long who was runner-up in the 2016 Scone Qualifier.
“That run exceed my expectations,” Morgan said.
“I thought 1300m would be too far, especially first up, and I would have been happy with a top five finish.
“He’d had enough by the time he hit the line but he has this incredible will to win.”
Distance is the only query for Art D’amour heading into the 1400m Country Championships qualifier.
He is a small horse who prefers 1200m or shorter but for Morgan, a shot at the Country Championships was too good to pass up.
“It’s a $150,000 restricted race and there have been plenty of 1000m and 1200m horses who have given it a go and performed well,” he said.
“He has his whole career to drop back if this doesn’t work.
“I’m hoping natural improvement will help him find the line strongly.”
Morgan decided to aim Art D’amour at the Country Championships after his hard-fought win over 1150m at Newcastle last November.
“I’d always thought he would be a 1000m horse but when he won sitting outside the leader I thought we could have a chance,” he said.
“I had a runner in a maiden on Country Championships day last year and I stuck around all day to watch the qualifier. I’m a big fan of Clearly Innocent and he had a huge win. It was a great atmosphere.”
Morgan concedes Greg Bennett’s horses will be hard to overcome but remains upbeat about his chances.
“For Art D’amour to win I think he will need to be in the second half of the field,” he said. “He isn’t strong enough to sit in the first few and kick away against good horses.”
“Missing the kick last start actually helped him by enabling a soft run.”
A former jockey, Morgan rode more than 150 winners during his four-year apprenticeship but like many, was forced to give it away when he was unable to keep his weight under control.
Shortly after that, he applied for his trainer’s license and has being doing that from his Tamworth base for the best part of the last decade.
He stills rides a lot of his own trackwork though and says it’s a great advantage.
“It’s handy to ride every day because it gives me a better understanding of the horse and allows me to notice any changes or issues,” he said.
He also broke Art D’amour in.
Owners, P & L Moore, took the horse to Morgan’s stables after they purchased him from the Scone Inglis Yearling Sales for $14,000.
“They’re great people,” Morgan said.
“I’ve done a lot of breaking in for them but this is the first time they’ve entrusted me with a horse to train.
“They’ve been very patient with Art D’amour and allowed him to flourish in his own time.
“He is very small but he is very fast and tries very hard.
“He is constantly surprising us and maybe he will again in the Country Championships.”