Just under a year ago Lee Van Den Bos’ now four-year-old chestnut gelding Loves A Hassle was seemingly on a path to the Country Championship, after claiming its maiden win its first run at Narromine.
Then, a chip on its knee was discovered.
Almost 12 months, surgery and an extensive recovery later, Loves A Hassle returned to racing at Mudgee on Sunday and promptly cruised to victory, suggesting the promise he showed in 2016 hasn’t gone anywhere.
“He actually pretty much won that first race at Narromine on three legs. We had him x-rayed and all that afterwards and it showed a chip on his knee,” Van Den Bos explained.
“So we had him operated on and he came through it well, then came through the 12-week program we have to get them from the paddock to the racetrack well too.”
Starting as a $3.50 favourite from barrier two at Mudgee, Loves A Hassle slotted in nicely against the rails after jumping well.
He worked his way to the outside at the home turn and kicked in the last 200 metres to cruise to a two-length victory.
Simply, it looked a bit easy for the gelding and his jockey, Travis Wolfgram.
“He did cruise a bit. My instructions to Travis had been that he was a bit soft, he was only about 80 per cent fit, but he rode well,” Van Den Bos said.
“There is some good signs, if you look at the races he’s won now. He beat Williamson [on Sunday] which has some good raps on it and in Narromine it was a pretty good field.
“He beat Lake Lugarno in that barrier trial at Orange too, which has since gone to eight wins from 13 starts.
“He was actually my pick for the Country Championship this year until we found that chip.”
All that bodes well for Van Den Bos and Loves A Hassle.
“He’s a beautiful horse to work with, his stable name is Romeo and it suits him perfectly because he just loves people,”
“He’s perfect to do anything with and he actually does a fair bit of his work by himself, he’s just a good horse. Hopefully he stays going well.
“We’ll probably run him in a few Highways and see how he goes from there.”