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Hawkes Bay Racing Column 26 Jun 2020

More horses than ever at NZ meetings

(By John Jenkins)

   After two days of action since the return of gallops racing following Covid-19 it is glaringly obvious New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing hugely underestimated the number of horses that are up to race fitness.

   The first day of racing, at Pukekohe last Saturday, saw more than 200 horses nominated for what was originally programmed as a five-race meeting. In the finish the number of races was extended to 11, with full fields carded for most of them.

   Another 200 plus horses were nominated for this week’s second gallop meeting, at Wanganui on Thursday, where again a five-race programme was changed to 11 races.

   The third meeting back will be staged at Riccarton Park in Christchurch today where, once again, the scheduled five-race programme has been revised to 11 races.

   The abundance of horses ready to race was clearly evident following recent barrier trials held in both the northern and central regions.

   There were 33 heats at the Te Rapa trials on June 9, 21 heats at Otaki on June 17, 30 again at Te Rapa last Tuesday and 12 at Waverley three days ago.

   Even the jumpers have been out in force, with 10 heats at the Cambridge jumping trials on June 18.

   NZTR set up a makeshift racing calendar for the month of July, erring on the side of caution as to how many horses would be available to race. Gallops racing was originally expected to resume on July 4 but that date was brought forward by a fortnight once NZTR realised the number of horses raring to go.

   It was decided that every race up until the end of the racing season, on July 31, would be an open entry event and carry total stakemoney of $15,000.

   First prizemoney is $8100, second $2250, third $1050, fourth $600 and there is  also $300 paid out for horses that finish from fifth to 14th.

   NZTR said it would waiver both nomination and acceptance fees for all races, meaning there was no cost to trainers and owners to enter their horses.

   It now means that NZTR have got themselves in a no-win situation. They have had to put on more races with a guaranteed $15,000 stake, to accommodate the huge numbers of horses available, but without any income from nomination and acceptance fees.

   Hawke’s Bay Racing will stage another round of jumpouts at the Hastings track next Tuesday with a large number of horses expected to compete again. And several trainers from the region have indicated they will have horses ready to race at the Awapuni meeting the following Saturday.

   Trainers spoken to are now concerned about what the next season holds as far as stakemoney levels go.

   Prior to the lockdown maiden races carried a minimum stake of $10,000, with increment increases as to the grade of races. The Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby, one of the iconic races on the racing calendar, was raced for a stake of $1milllion in February this year but is one of many of the country’s top races likely to have a prizemoney slash in the coming season.

   Whilst it is true that everyone needs to cut their cloth to suit, especially in trying and difficult times, New Zealand racing is already regarded as a poor cousin to Australia and it would not need to cut back too much more or we will become a third world racing industry likened to the likes of Macau.


Apprentice proves an instant hit 

   Last Saturday’s first day back for gallops racing since the Covid-19 lockdown will live long in the memory of apprentice jockey Callum Jones.

   The 17-year-old was having his first day of race-riding, after being granted his licence a few days before, and kicked home two winners and a second from four rides.

   To make the occasion even more memorable Jones was riding at his home track and the wins were on horses trained by his employer, former top jockey Nigel Tiley.

   After notching up a second in his first race-ride, on the Tiley-trained Lupelani in race four, Jones brought up his first win aboard Diogenes three races later and said the success was made even more special as he has a soft spot for the horse.

   Diogenes is one of my favourite horses at the stables,” Jones said. “From his other runs I was just hoping to cruise around and see how he handled the heavy ground and save a bit for the end.

   “I am really stoked that I was able to get my first win on Diogenes. People have been getting a bit annoyed with him because he is a bit nippy (likes to bite), but some of them will be quiet now because he has won a race.”

   Two races later Jones completed a winning double when getting Double Happy up to score in a 1300m race, which came as a bit of a surprise to the young rider.

   “Double Happy normally goes better over a longer distance, around 2100 metres,” he said. “But I thought he would have a little bit left when the others got tired and he just went a bit better than I expected.”

   Jones has no racing background and hadn’t put his leg over a horse until three years ago.

   “I went to the races with a friend’s Dad one time,” Jones said. “He mentioned I was a good size to be a jockey and I would like it, given my need for speed.”

   He approached Nigel Tiley and told him he wanted to be a jockey and he said to come in and do some work experience on the weekends, as he was still going to school.

   “In Year 10 I dropped out of school and went to work for Nigel. He taught me to ride and the rest is history.”

   Jones said it has been a great asset to have Tiley, a former champion jockey, teach him the ropes and guide him.

   “I have got a lot of respect for Nigel. It is a big help with him having the experience he has.

   “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Nigel. He has just a good way of putting things to help me, especially with me not coming from a horse background.”

   A keen surfer, Jones said his favourite past time compliments his riding career.

   “As long as the weather is good and I have got a spare hour, at least, I am out there in the sea,” he said.

   “It helps with my balance and with arm strength, paddling out.”

   Jones is keen to make a real go of becoming a jockey and has set himself a few goals early in his career.

   “I want to outride my claim in the first two years of my apprenticeship, that’s my main goal, and to just ride as many winners as possible, both for Nigel and other trainers.”

Apprentice Callum Jones looks well satisfied with himself as he brings Diogenes back to the winner’s stall at Pukekohe last Saturday, his first success on his first day of race-riding

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