IN Racing
Henry Hubber ready to unleash at Invercargill
Invercargill trainer Sally McKay couldn't be much more relaxed as she prepares emerging Southland star Henry Hubber for Sunday's Waxy's Irish Pub Handicap (1200m) on his home track.
NZ Racing Desk | March 31, 2023
Photo: Monica Toretto

Invercargill trainer Sally McKay couldn't be much more relaxed as she prepares emerging Southland star Henry Hubber for Sunday's Waxy's Irish Pub Handicap (1200m) on his home track.

It's a far cry from the early days of his career when McKay was at her wits' end trying to figure out why he wasn't producing performances she knew he was capable of.

Henry Hubber began his career with a win and four other top-four finishes in his first five starts before two mystifying below-par runs, setting alarm bells ringing for McKay.

"We found a couple of niggly problems with him which the vet treated him for and through that we found he had tightness in his stifle," McKay said.

"The vet originally thought it was his hocks but after we began treating his stifle he improved out of sight and won his next two starts.

"I just put liniment on his stifle occasionally now and with doing that he's back to being a happy horse. He just wasn't in a great space.

"I just rub his stifle with liniment once a week now and that's all it takes. I don't think it was really painful for him but it was affecting him and when he got stopped in his races, he just couldn't get going again. 

"We now also try and ride him where he's going to get clear air and when he's ready to get going, we just make sure he's in the open and he's not going to get interfered with."

With no tension in his stifles, Rip Van Winkle four-year-old gelding Henry Hubber produced a brilliant last-to-first win at Gore earlier this month, closing out the race with a blistering 44-second last 800m burst.

"He's trained on really well since that too. I'm thrilled with him," McKay said.

"This one is really just a pipe-opener for Riverton the following weekend. I was going to miss it but the owner is keen for him to run. It's his home track and won't affect him. 

"This is pretty much the same field as last time and if he's up to his mark, which he looks to be, it should be quite an easy run for him."

Safely through Sunday's race, McKay will set the Windsor Park Stud-bred, John Bishop-owned Henry Hubber for the 1200m open handicap at Riverton six days later before a campaign finale trip to Riccarton in late April or early May.

"That would probably be the end of the season for him," said McKay, who saddles Earl Of Orkney as a rival for Henry Hubber again after the pair ran the quinella at Gore last start.

"I'm more than happy that Earl runs against Henry. He's very well and the two of them work all the time together. Earl's on top of his game but in 65 grade he struggles to carry the high weights so we put him in the 75 races down in the weights and he seems to grow a leg. I'm rapt with both of them."

From her team of 15 in work, McKay has accepted with eight runners at Invercargill. She will also saddle Beth Dutton, Cluedo Lane, Morocco Miss, The Red Kracken, Fire 'N Reign and La Opcion at the meeting.

Last-start Gore maiden winner Fire 'N Reign and two-win mare La Opcion clash in the final race, the Ascot Sports Bar Handicap (1400m)

"I'm really pleased with the way Fire 'N Reign has trained on. The improved track should suit her and she's ready to go another really nice race," McKay said.

“You don't know how they are going to go stepping up in grade but she's a big, strong mare and I think she'll handle it all right. La Opcion had a heart fibrillation last time and she's drawn really well. She's a chance too."

Ascot Sports Bar Handicap Cluedo Lane Earl Of Orkney Fire 'N Reign Henry Hubber Invercargill John Bishop La Opcion Morocco Miss Rip Van Winkle Riverton Sally McKay The Red Kracken Waxy's Irish Pub Handicap Windsor Park Stud