By Glenn Davis
Barcaldine trainer Todd Austin is hoping his annual pilgrimage to the iconic Birdsville Cup will be successful with veteran galloper French Hussler on Saturday.
The Birdsville Cup is regarded as the Melbourne Cup of the desert as it stops the outback and is the main feature on a massive seven race program.
The barrier draw wasn’t kind for Austin with French Hussler drawing wide in gate 15 but will jump from 12 if the emergencies don’t obtain starts.
Austin also has Hacksaw Ridge, who ran last in the Betoota Cup (1600m) last Saturday, entered for the Birdsville Cup but is fifth emergency and drew barrier 16.
Fab’s Cowboy, who has raced on 29 Queensland tracks in his 72-start career, also fared poorly with barrier 13 while last week’s Betoota Cup winner Cashing Up drew 10.
“I’ve been going to Birdsville every year for about 25 years as both a jockey and trainer,” Austin said.
“I wasn’t old enough to drink when I had my first ride in the Birdsville Cup.
“I rode in the Birdsville Cup a few times but I never won it until I turned to training.”
Austin’s breakthrough Birdsville Cup victory came when Primed was successful in 2013.
Austin has another big team racing over the two-day Birdsville Cup carnival, which is a two-day drive or about 900 kilometres from his Barcaldine stables.
French Hussler will be ridden by apprentice Clayton Gallagher, who rode briefly in the Brisbane region before moving back to NSW.
French Hussler has started only three times for Austin after transferring from Rockhampton trainer John Wigginton.
The nine-year-old finished second at his first start for Austin at Tambo on August 4 before failing in the Muttaburra and Betoota Cups at his past two appearances.
“He ran fifth in the Betoota Cup but he wasn’t beaten that far,” Austin said.
French Hussler has started 74 times in his career for 12 wins and 22 placings and has earned more than $202,000 in prizemoney.
He has seen many parts of the Queensland coastline but his last win was back in April when successful over 1400 metres on a slow track at Townsville.
Racing Queensland webnews September 3