There will be a distinct Hong Kong flavour to Caitlin McKee’s training debut this weekend.
McKee and her partner, jumps jockey Nick Downs, have been rehoming former Hong Kong gallopers over the last few years and recently decided to chance their arm with a couple of repatriated geldings.
“We asked if there were any we could have a play with and race. It is something that I have been thinking about for a while when riding all morning, so it is nice to have something of our own,” McKee said.
“They said we were allowed to have a crack racing these two.”
The first of the pair was Not Ideal, who they entrusted to the care of trainer Ken Harrison, and the seven-year-old gelding has surpassed all expectations.
He finished runner-up at Ruakaka in his first-up run in June before going one better a month later at the Northland track.
“I have been really happy with Not Ideal, Ken has done a super job with him,” McKee said.
While she has enjoyed watching Not Ideal’s success, McKee was itching to have a go on her own with the couple’s other horse, Wanderin Apache, and she is set to do just that in the Harcourts Whangarei (1400m) at Ruakaka this weekend.
Initially trained in New Zealand by Ross Beckett, Wanderin Apache won two trials before his sale to Hong Kong interests where he made his mark for trainer Ricky Yiu, with victory in the Gr.3 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) and placings in the Gr.1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) and Gr.3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1400m).
He returned to the trials at Te Rapa earlier this month for McKee, winning his 1100m heat. However, McKee said he didn’t like the Heavy9 surface so they will head north in search of better footing.
“We have had him in work for a wee while, just ticking over. He trialled up really well at Te Rapa and I figured we would go to the races, he knows what he is doing and doesn’t need another trial,” McKee said.
“He definitely needed that trial and wasn’t a huge fan of the ground, so we are taking him to Ruakaka for a better track.”
Wanderin Apache will make his New Zealand debut alongside Not Ideal and McKee is looking forward to barracking for both of her geldings on Saturday.
“Wanderin Apache doesn’t give a huge amount away, he is quite a relaxed horse. It is a bit of wait and see with him, but he has been working really well,” she said.
“Not Ideal has done a little bit of racing leading up to this, so he should be right on and ready to go.”
TAB bookmakers believe Wanderin Apache will make a winning return to New Zealand, installing him as a $4.20 favourite for Saturday ahead of Not Ideal and the Andrew Forsman-trained White Noise at $4.80.
While looking forward to Saturday, McKee said both geldings have bigger fish to fry, with Not Ideal nominated for the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) and Wanderin Apache nominated for the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m).
“Wanderin Apache is an older boy, so we are going from race-to-race. I have put a late nomination in for the Tarzino but he needs to go quite well this weekend to prove he can go there,” McKee said.
“I think 1600m will be Not Ideal’s distance, so it will be exciting to see him step out over a bit more ground.”
Saturday will be the realisation of a dream for McKee, who began trackwork riding upon leaving school and always harboured a dream of becoming a trainer.
“I used to show jump quite a lot,” she said. “I wasn’t too good at school and a few friends were riding trackwork, so I ended up getting into that and I have really enjoyed it.
“I don’t have showjumpers anymore, I really enjoy the racehorses.
“It (training) was something in the back of my mind that I would love to have a go. He (Wanderin Apache) has done a bit and knows what he is doing, so I thought he would be a good horse to start with.”