Costa Rolfe



Sharp ‘N’ Smart with a hint of Savabeel

Graeme Rogerson declared Savabeel to be the best horse he'd put a bridle on, and that was before the colt won the Cox Plate. Could JJ Atkins contender Sharp 'N' Smart be the trainer's next big thing?

Sharp ‘N’ Smart’s highly impressive Australian debut at Eagle Farm last Saturday wasn’t a surprise to many New Zealanders familiar with the lightly-raced son of Redwood. Least of all the two-year-old’s co-trainer.

Narrowly denied by Political Debate after rocketing to the line in the 1500m The Phoenix, Sharp ‘N’ Smart is now tasked with backing-up in this Saturday’s Group One JJ Atkins for Graeme and Debbie Rogerson.


Sharp 'N' Smart levels up outside Political Debate in The Phoenix. (Photo by Michael McInally/Racing Queensland)

But listening to Graeme wax post-race about this ‘big raw staying horse’ with a stack of ability, recollections of another serious talent in the same colours inevitably came to mind. 

Like Sharp ‘N’ Smart, Savabeel was bred to get over a trip.

He showed precocity not normally associated with Zabeels to belt his rivals on debut over 1000m, sweeping home from last to win running away by four-and-a-half lengths.

The second horse that day, Mind The Step, eventually stumbled far enough north to finish up in Darwin.

Despite the Kiwi pedigree that preached patience, Rogerson persisted with a four-start two-year-old campaign that culminated in a Champagne Stakes. 

Savabeel finished both third and second-last in the four-strong Champagne, as the gelding Dance Hero secured his Triple Crown: no ‘stallion-making’ races when Gai’s bloke found the front.   

It was a day of theatre scarcely seen at Randwick. A couple of hours later Grand Armee had the temerity to trounce the Black Flash, Lonhro, by six in his $1.26 Queen Elizabeth swansong. Then the Diva won the Sydney Cup.

Returning for his three-year-old campaign in August, Savabeel turned heads second-up after letting down strongly for a close-up fifth in Doonan’s Golden Rose (alas another gelding), before stamping himself as a Derby contender by claiming the Spring Champion, poking along up on the speed for Chris Munce.

Savabeel and Chris Munce defeat Outback Prince in the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick. (Photo by Getty Images)

But for Rogerson, this was no mere Derby grinder. Such was the trainer’s confidence in the quality of his colt that a narrow, tightly-cambered detour had been included in the route to Flemington.

After a slick mid-week gallop ‘Rogie’ declared him, stating that only bad luck – not Starcraft nor Elvstroem nor Grand Armee – could beat Savabeel in the Cox Plate. 

“I’ve never had a horse do what this horse can do,” he told the scribes. 

He is better than them, the best horse I’ve put a bridle on. Saturday will tell. I’ll be a hero or end up on my arse.” 

The confidence was justified. The punters ($10 out to $15 in the betting ring) failed to cop the tip.

Sharp ‘N’ Smart has a long way to go to wrest that ‘best-to-be-bridled’ tag from the incumbent, whose legacy has been further entrenched by him producing no less than 115 stakes-winning progeny from his Waikato Stud base. 

However, Rogerson has already circled the 2022 Cox Plate as a possible destination for his latest rising star.   

The roads to spring – where roadblocks and detours abound – are sometimes best navigated by those who’ve been there before.



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