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12/07/02 Sheppard Hoping He Can Kickit at the Valley
Young trainer James Sheppard is hopeful Kickit can cause a major upset by beating the brilliant St. Steven in a race run in his honour at Moonee Valley tomorrow.

A last start winner at Mornington, Kickit is one of three gallopers expected to prove the hardest for St. Steven to beat tomorrow.

Kickit, a ghostly grey from New Zealand, was given to Sheppard to train for a short time from leading trainer Robert Priscott. He is best know as the trainer of Pure Theatre, Hill of Grace and Damaschino.

A son of Defensive Play, Kickit came to Australia after running a close second to the promising Wheeler trained jumper Real Tonic at Te Rapa in May.

Even though having not started in a race for over a month and having travelled across the Tasman, Kickit proved much too good in the Great Southern Steeple at Mornington last month. At the end of the 3400 metre race the gelding had cleared away from Kevie's Luck to win by five lengths.

Sheppard, a 23-year-old who is based at Mornington, is confident the seven-year-old will have no problems with the extra journey at the Valley tomorrow.

"Robert (Priscott) is certain he is going to get the extra trip," Sheppard said of the gelding who's last start success over 3400 metre was his longest to date.

The immediate future of Kickit in Australia will depend on how he goes tomorrow up against the likes of St. Steven, River Boy and Regal Royal.

"If he performs well tomorrow he would probably run in the Hiskens," Sheppard added. "Otherwise we would keep him for the weaker steeples."

Should he run in the Hiskens that would most likely be the gelding's final race in Australia before returning home to New Zealand.

Sheppard predicted that St. Steven and Regal Royal were the obvious horses to beat tomorrow.

St. Steven is a last start winner on the flat and his rider Brett Scott feels the Nakayama Grand Jump champ is well suited at the set weights and penalties scale.

River Boy zooms right into calculations after downing St. Steven when he was a hot favourite at the track at his most recent jumping run.

Robbie Laing meanwhile, will give Regal Royal his first start over the bigger fences this preparation after he recently contested the Grand National Hurdle at Flemington. He was placed second behind Blue Star in his previous jumping start - the Australian Hurdle at Sandown.

In early markets St. Steven is rated a $2.20 chance to win the race named in his honour.

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