Courtesy of Racing and Sports – Don Mackay – 03/03/15. Classy Brisbane sprinter River Lad will return to training in the next few days and will be set for back-to-back Stradbroke Handicaps.

Sunshine Coast trainer Natalie McCall says River Lad Horseform has been in pre-training at Washpool Lodge at Aratula.

He’s been availing himself of the superb facilities including the ‘Aqua Trainer’ — a state-of-the-art water-walker.

Washpool Lodge provides pre-training for a host of leading stables, including Queensland Premiership Trainers Tony Gollan and Robert Heathcote — as well as Liam Birchley.

Melbourne-based Peter Moody and Robert Smerdon also have horses pre-trained at Washpool Lodge after wintering in Queensland.

“It was a great thrill to have Black Caviar Horseform with us in 2011,” says Washpool’s Letitia Langbecker.

“We didn’t have the ‘Aqua Trainer’ when she was with us — and she’s actually the reason we put it in,” Langbecker says.

“We have pre-trained many Peter Moody horses — and because he’s big water-walker-user — we decided to install one.

“Among the horses we had for Peter last year were Dissident Horseform and Bring Me The Maid Horseform and we had Sonntag Horseform prior to his win in the 2014 Queensland Derby for Henry Dwyer.”

Langbecker says River Lad does a lot of his early work in the ‘Aqua Trainer’ before progressing to the treadmill to strengthen is back and top line.

“He does six weeks here with us normally and he’s looking tremendous.”

Natalie McCall says River Lad will have two-or-three runs leading into the Stradbroke and his campaign will kick off at the Gold Coast on 25 April in the Victory Stakes.

In 2014, McCall became the first woman to train a Stradbroke winner when River Lad won at 30-1.

“It was an unbelievable to win a Group One at home,” McCall says. For Queenslanders the Stradbroke is the pinnacle.

“In the last few years River Lad’s really come into-his-own. He’s a happy horse, strong, with a good disposition and really enjoys his work — and there’s every reason to believe he can go on with it.

“I always thought he’d be a good city horse, but every time he came back from a spell he kept stepping up a grade.

“The Stradbroke was a 12 month plan, so we had some confidence in the horse performing well.”

McCall says River Lad “is a one person horse.”

“He only likes me,” she laughs. “I ride him all his work and we get on well.

“He’s not nasty or anything. It’s like people — some are just not that social.”

After is Stradbroke win, the Top Echelon Horseform gelding raced in Melbourne during the spring.

“His first run was good, but the tracks down there were way, way too hard for him and he really felt it. He doesn’t necessarily need it wet, but just some give in it.”

McCall runs a boutique stable of around 20 and says they offer horses “individualised training and care.”

“It’s not one-size-fits-all like in some larger stables,” she says.

“They all have their own feeding and exercise regime. We have, for example, a couple of bush tracks near here. We take them down there if they are a bit stale in the mind — and it’s good for that sort of thing.

“My fiancé (Ryan Tyrell) and I run the stable, more or less, and it’s our whole life. We’re very dedicated… it’s what we do. Ryan does all the breaking and also rides work.”

McCall says the Sunshine Coast has a first-class stabling complex and she wouldn’t contemplate being anywhere else.

And she says the stable has some nice horses coming through.

“We are always looking to improve the quality and we have room for a few more — but have no desire to have a big team. We want to remain hands-on.

“On the back of the Stradbroke win we had some support to go and buy some nice babies and we have high hopes for these.

“At the recent Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale we picked up two very nice horses — a big, beautiful filly by Northern Meteor Horseform who we’ve just broken her in, and a Rothesay Horseform colt who will be an early-running type. He’s eligible for the $13 million QTIS bonus money.

“We have some shares available in both of these horses if anyone is interested.”

McCall is looking forward to the return of Stake’s winner Lady Echelon Horseform from a serious race injury.

“She got galloped on at Doomben when she came back from the ‘Greys’ race on Oaks Day in Melbourne.

“She had an operation and it was touch and go for a while. She had a cast on for six weeks, but thankfully, she seems to have come through it fine. She’s been boxed and will go to the paddock for a month and then come back in.”

She says Colour Charge and Not Too Sure are a couple of handy types.

“Not Too Sure came to us from Victoria last winter and is a city winner for me. He had a couple of issues last time in and we think we have got him going okay now.

“Colour Charge has only had 12 starts and is an up and coming gelding. He might make into nice miler 1800m horse.”

McCall was raised around horses and is the daughter of fellow trainer Ray McCall.

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