SALE trainer Allan Douch, 69, has borrowed the confidence of AFL finals coaches as his mare Gift From Heaven attempts a winning hat-trick at Sale on Thursday.
“She’s the one they have to beat,” he said. “She has improved since her last start win.”
Gift From Heaven will run in the sixth race – the Showcase Benchmark 70 Handicap over 2200 metres. Her last start was a win at Sale over 2226m on August 31 and that followed a win at 1900m on Geelong’s synthetic track on August 19.
Douch said his track rider Joel Hallam also believed Gift From Heaven had improved since her last winning run, while jockey Vlad Duric (who has ridden the mare at her past three starts) “likes her and has her worked her out”.
Gift From Heaven’s first win from 13 starts was in a 1500m maiden race at Sale on February 2.
Douch said the mare’s name was regularly found in stewards’ reports before she was tried at a middle-distance.
“She was always finding trouble in the shorter races,” he said.
Gift From Heaven is a four-year-old by God’s Own, winner of the 2005 Caulfield Guineas. Her dam Encargo battled around Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland provincial tracks and was retired with only two wins.
Douch said he also had been confident Gift From Heaven would win her past start at Sale.
“I just thought they could not beat her at Sale after the strength of her win at Geelong,” he said. He backed up the confidence with a wager at $17 fixed odds.
In addition to being a skilled trainer of horses, Douch also has played a role in the development of several jockeys. Hallam was a talented young jockey who rode winners in Melbourne, Adelaide and even a Darwin Cup before increasing weight ended his career.
Noel Callow and Frank Stockdale were apprenticed to Douch while Peter Mertens and Terry McAlister were regular stable riders. Douch supplied a first winner for Mertens when he returned to riding after a four-year break through injury.
Main rivals for Gift From Heaven may be Compound, Three Points and St Issey.
Chris Symons will ride Compound for Flemington trainer Saad Hasan. The seven-year-old gelding by Zabeel is a last-start winner of a 3227m hurdle race at Warrnambool on August 29. His last win on the flat was over 2000m at Donald on April 20.
Three Points, trained by Jason Warren, is lightly raced with only six starts – for two wins and a second. He won over 1900m at Kilmore on August 31 when having his first test beyond 1500m.
Thursday’s rider Adam McCabe has ridden Three Points in three of his past four starts.
St Issey is trained by Pat Hyland and will be ridden by Michael Rodd who rode the mare in her win at this track and distance on February 2. It will be Rodd’s fourth ride on the mare.