Ruakaka trainer Kenny Rae typically heads to the South Island with a small team over the summer, but this year his hand has been forced somewhat by COVID-19 restrictions in his home region.
Northland remains in the COVID-19 red traffic light setting and as a result it has lost its upcoming meeting, adding to the frustration of the last few months for Rae, who has had to contend with regional lockdowns over the last few months.
“It is absolutely ridiculous,” Rae said.
“Trying to get through Auckland all the time and having those checkpoints and getting COVID tests all the time just became a nightmare, so I packed them up and did what I did last year.
“Some of them have been down here since October.
“Counting Eamonn Green’s two, we have got 10 here and 10 at home.”
Rae, who trains in partnership with his daughter Krystal Williams-Tuhoro, will line-up seven of those runners at Ashburton’s postponed meeting on Tuesday.
Perennial bridesmaid The Buffer will be looking to add a victory to their long line of runner-up results when they line-up in the Agraforum Growing Innovation (1400m) fresh-up.
“He will stay here, he won’t go back home because he keeps running seconds,” Rae said.
“Now the track is a Dead5 I have got more confidence, but 1400m still might be a bit of a query first-up.
“If I knew they were going to call the races off (last week) I would have given him a trial at Riccarton.”
Rae will also line-up The Bouquet Slayer in the Hinds Ridge Farming (1400m), Bodyguard and On My Shoulders in the Merry Xmas Norm (1200m), On the Rivet in the Hygain Maiden Stayers Challenge Extra $2500 (2200m), Zelenski in the Richie McCrea Painters & Decorators (1300m), and Apatchee Power in the Vale Yong Chew (1400m).
“The Bouquet Slayer, ridden properly and a bit of luck from the draw (20), can definitely be right in it,” Rae said.
“Bodyguard is a bit of a teaser, I don’t think he puts in 100 percent myself, and On My Shoulders is going to be a handy horse. I think he will go really well.
“On The Rivet has been a bit unlucky with his rides and draws. I just want to win one race for the owner with him, then I have won with all three of the family, I have won with his two half-sisters.
Meanwhile, stablemate Irish Girl’s summer preparation is starting to ramp up, with her first major target being the Gr.3 Brighthill Farm Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie next month.
“Irish Girl goes to the trials tomorrow (Tuesday) at Ellerslie and I will probably set her for the Concorde on Karaka Million night,” Rae said.
Rae was aiming to have another contender at the Karaka Million meeting, however, Follow Your Dreams’ path towards the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) was curtailed by injury.
“He got an infection in one back leg and then the Karaka Million mile was off the radar because of that, so we gelded him,” Rae said.
“I would love to get him to Queensland sometime. He will be ready in Autumn. He has come back well.”