By Garrick Knight
It’s been a frustrating season for Mike Berger and Matty White as they dealt with setback after setback with their stable star, Eagle Watch.
The sophomore colt was far too good for his opponents at Cambridge on Saturday, clearing out to win easily in the hands of Todd Mitchell.
It was one of two winners at the meeting for the partnership after Carse O Fern Tom opened the day’s racing with a maiden victory.
It was only the second start of the season for Eagle Watch, who raced in the both the Sires Stakes Final and Jewels at Addington late last season.
“We thought he’d be ready to go in October, but got quite a bad virus and it took him a while to get over it,” said Berger.
“Once we finished with that idea, he had some niggly growing pain-type issues which meant we had to back off him.
“Nothing major at all, just a sore back and that type of thing.
“But we seem to be on top of all that now so fingers crossed.”
Berger was grumpy at being penalised 8 points for what was a very cheap race on his home track and says he and White will be taking a “casual approach” to Eagle Watch’s racing for the rest of the season.
“We’ll potter around and see if he can earn enough to make the Jewels again.
“I’d like to think he’s good enough to win a couple more quickly, but he’ll shoot right up the grades and then have to race the best horses.
“His future is probably not in New Zealand unfortunately. It’s bloody hard going here for three-year-olds.
“He’s just a touch behind the top ones but is a good, honest, genuine little pacer.”
Carse O Fern Tom was one of two winners from the first, small (16) crop of Highview Tommy on the card, the other being the Jeremy Young-trained Tommy Tukaa.
“He’s the only one I’ve had by the sire, but I’ve just broken in the yearling full sister and tipped her out.
“He probably hasn’t had a lot of opportunity because there are so few foals.
“This fella is a little bit stronger than last season. He was big, rangy and weak and wasn’t quite there.
“But he can cope with it a bit better this time. Certainly lacks a bit of speed but it won’t be his last win.”
Luke Whittaker did the driving with White on the sideline after his nasty spill six days prior and Berger speaks highly of his soon-to-be new employee.
“In another week he’ll be joining us; he’s just gone home for a week to celebrate his father’s 60th birthday.
“He was actually having two weeks off between jobs but was good enough to come and help us last week when Matty ended up in hospital.
“He went above and beyond. Nothing was an issue. One day he was there for nine hours and just kept trucking.
“We had trouble keeping up with him.”
It was very much a team effort, Berger reckoned, with White incapacitated.
“We had a few people come in and lend a hand including Matty’s dad, Les, Tony Hamblin and Kevin Dysart.
“We were pretty focussed on getting some results for Matty more than anything, so we were happy with how the weekend’s racing panned out.”
Berger doesn’t know how long it will be before his training partner returns to active duty.
“I’ve really got no idea and I don’t think he knows himself.
“He certainly won’t be able to get in the cart for a while. He came down yesterday morning and was walking pretty crooked.
“He won’t be liking it either, because he’s not the kind of person to sit around doing nothing.”