THE latest welcome addition to the Bendigo thoroughbred training ranks has wasted little time in getting down to the business of preparing winners.
Former Ballarat trainer Nick Smart has only been in Bendigo less than two weeks, but he is already making an impression.
The dual Group 3-winning trainer has saddled up just two runners since his move to the Bendigo Jockey Club complex earlier this month, but has already notched up his first winner.
Expect plenty more to come, with Smart already planning to grow his team of horses from its current size of 10 to as many as 40 in the years ahead.
At least six more youngsters are expected to return to work in the next few weeks.
The 34-year-old views his move to Bendigo as an opportunity to reinvigorate his promising career, which he hinted had to some degree stalled during his 18 or so months in Ballarat.
"I was probably a little disappointed - we probably weren't performing to the standards we set for ourselves previously," he said.
"I was going to have to shift stables into a new complex, so I thought I would have a decent look around and make sure Ballarat is where I wanted to spend the next five or 10 years, which I wasn't sure about.
"I then came down to Bendigo and had a look at these facilities and I was really impressed. It was a really painless shift.
"I have obviously had runners here before and they have the great racing surface here, but I hadn't taken a close look at the training facilities until I came down.
"(Bendigo Jockey Club CEO) Aaron Hearps gave me a good tour and he was a big help; getting things organised was all pretty seamless.
"Now that I am here I just want to keep growing the stable, If you want to compete on the good days of racing, you need a decent number - somewhere up to 40 or 50. That'd be a goal."
Smart, who is not afraid to travel long distances in pursuit of a winner, has made the one successful raid out of town already since settling in Bendigo.
He scored his first official winner as Bendigo trainer with Silent Command at last Saturday's South Australian metropolitan meeting at Murray Bridge.
The five-year-old, who has won three of 18 career starts for earnings of more than $108,000, will now be set for a tilt at the Listed Balaklava Cup on September 11.
I was probably a little disappointed (in Ballarat) - we probably weren't performing to the standards we set for ourselves previouslyNick Smart
Smart's next starter will be the promising four-year-old mare Occultation - the younger sister of stable-mate Single Handed - who is resuming from a 31 week spell at Wangaratta at Saturday.
"She's showed nice ability, (but) not much went right for her in her two runs last prep," Smart said.
"She finished third at Stawell last start but she is a lot better than that."
Smart described his reception in Bendigo as 'very welcoming' from his peers.
"There's generally a nice camaraderie in the racing industry - we are all competitors, but you generally have some good mates in among them," he said.
"It doesn't seem any different here; I'm sure everyone gets along well.
"While it was disappointing to bid farewell to Ballarat, I wasn't happy with where were at.
"My strike-rate probably dropped five or eight per cent from where it was in Adelaide. Over there we pretty much maintained a 20 per cent strike rate and I wasn't happy with that.
"Maybe it just didn't suit me, but we've made the move and I am rapt in it."
The much-travelled horseman brings with him a first-class pedigree and racing background.
The third-generation trainer and son of Oakbank trainer Bill Smart has been around his horses his entire life.
He started breaking in horses at age 14 and spent stints in the United States - at a stud farm in Kentucky - for 12 months when he was 18, and later France for 18 months, where he worked with leading French trainer Andre Fabre.
Smart, who worked under both his father and leading Australian trainer David Hayes, eventually broke out on his own in 2013 and has trained more than 70 winners from his previous bases at Morphettville, Ballarat and now Bendigo.
His biggest successes have been with Distillation in the Group 3 Lord Reims Stakes (2014) and October Date in the Group 3 Chairman's Stakes (2015).
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