Northeast of Warragul, nestled away off the major highway, 115 kilometres from Melbourne, lies picturesque Shady Creek.
The sleepy farming hamlet was accredited with a population of 154 in the 2016 census. There is no pub, store or school.
There is, however, a hall. And, for a select group of grateful owners and an emerging horse trainer, it has an ATM. His name is Hazard Ahead.
The consistent five-year-old gelding was victorious again last Friday night at Cranbourne, leading all the way to take out the Munro’s IGA Sky Heights Stayers Series Heat 3 (2080m).
It was the bay son of Foreplay’s sixth win, to go with his eight agonising seconds, in a 32-start career that has netted his delighted connections $144,908 in stakes thus far.
Putting that bank into perspective is the fact that Hazard Ahead was purchased by part-owner Brendan Blackshaw (brother of trainer Craig) from the 2014 Inglis VOBIS Gold sale for $1500.
No wonder “Billy” is so popular in and around Shady Creek — the owner’s equivalent of a 100/1 shot.
Hazard Ahead will always have special place in the heart of Craig Blackshaw and wife Kristie as he was the first winner from their new training establishment at Shady Creek, when successful at Bairnsdale in March 2017 in a 2000 metre maiden.
The couple purchased the property in December 2016, relocating from Trafalgar.
The established 65-acre horse property is fully set up for training and agistment, with a stable block, day paddocks, sand arena, 1000m track, cross-country paddock with jumps, walking machine and 25 spelling paddocks. A swimming pool is the next project, and Blackshaw makes the trip to Moe for trackwork three times a week.
Blackshaw is building his team off the back of continued success (12 winners from 72 runners this season). He currently has 16 in work.
“We couldn’t be happier,” the trainer said. “We haven’t got any superstars but as long as you get the best out of the horses you have, that’s all you can do. Just try to place them where they can be competitive.”
Hazard Ahead was perfectly rated in front last Friday night by Nikita Beriman.
“It was an outstanding ride,” Blackshaw said.” She rated him to perfection. They were coming at him, but he kept giving. He just keeps stepping up.”
The Blackshaws were again active at the recent Inglis VOBIS Gold sale, purchasing four colts to be syndicated, with some sale and lease options still available.
There are two by Canford Cliffs ($3500 and $10,000), a Statue of Liberty ($6000) and a Domesday ($4000).
Hazard Ahead has pulled up “super” from his gutsy win on a very heavy track and is likely to head back to Cranbourne on Friday night for another heat of the Sky Heights Stayers Series, a benchmark 70 over 2025 metres.
Homework gets result
Father-daughter trainer-jockey combination Wayne and Kate Walters were relieved on Tuesday to break through for a first victory at their newly adopted training base at Sale.
Progressive four-year-old mare Ali Orphan was a last-stride winner of the Ladbrokes Call Me BM64 Handicap (1419 metres).
It was a masterful ride from Kate Walters, who settled Ali Orphan ($10) midfield with cover from the widest gate, before manoeuvring into the clear in the straight and finding the best going.
The daughter of Alamosa arrived just in time to beat Moe-trained gallopers Yasey San ($18) and Dominant Genie ($3.60).
Ali Orphan has certainly thrived in the Gippsland environment. She has been one of the star performers of the large Walters team that moved from Mount Gambier in February, combining with Kate for three wins from her five starts since relocating.
The quirky Wayne was his usual cagey self post-race on Tuesday, conceding: “It’s good. She had no luck last time at Sandown — it wasn’t that bad a run.”
The trainer added that his move to Sale had been something of a happy accident.
“I’ve been waiting to get out of Mount Gambier for so long. I’d been looking in New South Wales and couldn’t find anywhere to put the numbers — couldn’t buy land anywhere I wanted to go.
“When they ripped up the last track at Mount Gambier, they did me a favour, and as luck would have it, I ended up here.”
Kate had done her homework, walking the track the day before the races and gaining important knowledge by galloping a horse on the course proper on race morning.
“It was definitely the best part of the track,” she said. “It’s great to win on our home track. She hit the line strongly.”
Team Walters has had 86 starters for six winners since moving to Sale, with Ali Orphan and Choysa winning three times apiece, two of Choysa’s wins coming at Sandown.
Although the stable’s strike rate hasn’t been outstanding so far, followers wouldn’t be far behind, those six winners starting at $26, $18, $10, $21, $4 and $4.20.
In other stable news, New Zealand Group 3 winner Clarify will do his future racing in Australia with Walters.
The five-year-old Savabeel gelding is owned by the Smithies family of Monovale Farm, who own all the horses in the Walters stable (currently 28).
Clarify was trained at Matamata by Peter McKay, his five wins thus far coming from 2000 to 2200 metres, including the Group 3 Manawatu Cup (2100m).
“It was a business decision to chase the better prizemoney, and we usually send up to half a dozen horses a year to Wayne,” Joe Smithies said.
The association has had black-type success in the past — No Tricks (also by Savabeel), won the 2015 listed Daybreak Lover (1800m) at the Gold Coast, with Brenton Avdulla in the saddle.