NATHAN Hurst has spent more than a decade in the gig and has won plenty of races on his home track, but when it comes to the two-year-old features at the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival he's not had the success he would have liked.
It seems odd for someone who has long supported the carnival and had some very talented horses in his Eglinton stable over the years, but Hurst has never qualified a runner for the Gold Tiara or the Gold Crown Final.
"I've never driven in one of the two-year-old finals, I've had a couple just miss out running second and third in their heats," Hurst said.
"I've had one in the three-year-old fillies - Tulhurst Kiss - but a few of my better ones have come from New Zealand and haven't been eligible, they haven't been paid up."
This year a filly called Gabbys Reason shaped as Hurst's best two-year-old prospect. But after she won on debut at Parkes, injury meant she was ruled out.
So that leaves Hurst's Gold Tiara hopes on the shoulders of Tulhurst Cuddles, while he will attempt to qualify Eagle Commander for the Gold Crown Final. Both are $100,000 Group 1 deciders.
"This fella [Eagle Commander] I think will be competitive in the heats so hopefully he can get into the final, anything can happen," Hurst said.
"I've got Tulhurst Cuddles in the fillies as well. I think she'll be better as a three-year-old, but she's done everything right and been handling things good, so I thought we'd put her in.
"It looks pretty strong this year, so it would be great to get a run in the finals, or even one of the better consolations would be nice."
Hurst purchased Eagle Commander at last year's Gold Crown Yearling Sale for $6,500 because he liked his breeding. The Fly Like An Eagle x Supreme Command gelding is a brother to Taylors Mill. She won the Group 3 NSW Breeders Challenge Regional Final for two-year-old fillies in 2018.
Eagle Commander placed fifth to Gabbys Reason on debut at Parkes and since then has notched up a pair of second placings at Bathurst.
Hurst will give him another start at Bathurst on Wednesday in a two-year-old colts and geldings pace to finish his preparation for the Gold Crown. He will go from barrier four in a field of 10 which features just one other horse - Michael Muscat's My Buzz Lightning - who has a prior race start.
"I am really happy with him. He went a little bit rough at Parkes, but that's just because he was inexperienced, his two runs at Bathurst have been real good," Hurst said.
"Every run has been better, he knows when to relax and knows when he has to switch on. He's getting good experience out of these races and racing hasn't worried him. A lot of two-year-olds get knocked around a bit so you don't keep racing them, but he's handling it well."
DO YOU WANT MORE ORANGE NEWS AND SPORT?
- Receive our free newsletters delivered to your inbox, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up below ...