Many Southland trainers were itching to get back racing at Gore on Friday, but they have had to be a little more patient, with the severe weather forecast for the region resulting in the meeting being transferred to Sunday.
It has been a long winter for trainers in the deep south, and Ascot Park conditioner Sally McKay is particularly looking forward to its return after its winter hiatus in the region.
“I can’t wait, it has been a long time coming, so I am thrilled to bits,” she said.
McKay will have four representatives at the meeting, including Henry Hubber in the Kevin Coyle Memorial (1100m).
The son of Rip Van Winkle was in outstanding form last preparation, stringing together four wins in his last four starts.
He has impressed McKay with the way he has returned and she is looking forward to stepping him out once more on Friday.
“He is a lovely horse and he got us quite excited last season, so here’s hoping he can go on with it,” she said.
“He has come back super. He thickened up a bit more since last season. He didn’t have that long out, we might have given him six weeks.
“We brought him back in early because it gets so wet and cold down here and he has had a slow build-up. He had a jump-out last week and he came through that nicely.
“We are just hoping the track isn’t too heavy, I don’t want a gut buster for his first-up run.
“But it is a good even field and it is a good place to start. It is only a 45-minute trip to the races and he will be home in his own box that night.”
All going to plan after Sunday, McKay is eyeing a trip north to Canterbury next month on a path towards New Zealand Cup Week.
“At this stage, we will go to Ashburton on October 14 for an Open 1200m and then he will go to the Pegasus (Listed, 1000m) and then the Stewards (Gr.3, 1200m),” she said.
McKay will also line-up The Red Kracken in the James Engineering (1335m), Cluedo Lane in the Gore Elite Plumbing (1100m), and Industrialist in the Roofcraft Industries (1335m).
“Industrialist had a week off after Riccarton and he looks an absolute picture,” McKay said.
“He galloped up very nicely this week and I am happy with where he is at.
“It is an even field and he is a genuine horse, we are thrilled with how he has come along.”
In stark contrast, McKay said there is plenty of improvement to come from The Red Kracken and Cluedo Lane.
“I am not happy with where his (The Red Kracken) coat is at, he has got a lot of improvement in him. His work has been very good but he is not looking as forward as I would have liked,” she said.
“He had a nice trial last week and he came through that terrific.
“Cluedo Lane is a very talented horse. He disappointed us last prep, but he has had a good spell, has come back in and is working nicely. He had a quiet jump-out last week.
“In his first start in the barriers he got a hell of a fright so we are trying to get his confidence up around there. He came through his trial well and he is working up well so here’s hoping he doesn’t get himself all worked up before the race this week.
“I feel he will probably need it, but 1100m is perfect because he has got a fair bit of pace, but we will know more after Sunday. He will come on a lot because his coat also isn’t moving.”