News

Sunny Ruby returns to NZ

By Duane Ranger

If Australian-based Southlander, Sonya Smith, can win either the ANZAC or Rowe Cups in the next fortnight then all of her racing dreams would be fulfilled.

The Victoria horsewoman trains the Fred Fletcher and Sam Smolenski owned Sunny Ruby at Gavin Lang’s former property in Melton. In fact she has trained the 5-year-old Sundon - Bright Diedre mare since Smolenski took her to campaign in Australia in late January.

On January 28 the Smolenski trained and Mark Purdon driven Sunny Ruby won the Group One Dullard Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. A week later she placed in the Group One Great Southern Star.

Then on February 17 Sunny Ruby won her first Group One for new trainer Smith and driver Anthony Butt in the Alderbaran Park 2017 Maori Mile at Bendigo.

"I couldn't believe my luck. Sam just left the horse with us because he thought there were more options for her over here.

"She has been absolutely amazing and made my year. Wow, if she won in New Zealand that would be a dream come true. I don't think I would ever stop celebrating," Smith laughed.

She also joked that Butt was her strapper and driver while Sunny Ruby was campaigning in New Zealand.

"Ants is doing all the work with her when she arrives at Andrew and Lyn Neal's Cambridge property on Thursday morning. Another Australia, Darryl Boko is also staying there.

"Our mare will have two races at Alexandra Park and then return to Australia because there are so many Group races for her here in the autumn," Smith said.

"I'll see how she goes in the ANZAC Cup and then I might fly over and watch her in the Rowe Cup a week later," she added.

Sunny Ruby will be looking to become the first Australian-trained trotter to win the Group One ANZAC Cup this Friday night. The last time an Australian trained trotter won the Rowe Cup was in 2002 when La Coocaracha and Kerryn Manning nailed the coveted 3200m Group One trot.

Although he is yet to win an ANZAC Cup, Butt is no stranger to driving Rowe Cup champions. He’s achieved that feat five times with Lyell Creek (2000, 2001, and 2004) and Take A Moment in 2003.

“I’d love to win the Rowe Cup, simply because of it’s great history even though Ants thinks the horse would probably perform better over the ANZAC Cup 2200m mobile.

“I’m just happy to have a trotter in both races. I’m a Kiwi and I know what those races mean to trainers over there. She has given me so many happy times already. I can’t believe Sam left the horse with us. I’m just eternally grateful,” said Southlander Smith, who spent 10 years working for Tim and Anthony Butt before migrating to Victoria.

Sunny Ruby has also won the Group Three Charlton Trotters Cup on February 27 and the Group One Knight Pistol Trot on March 3.

In New Zealand Sunny Ruby won 15 of her 55 starts including the Group One Harness Jewels 3YO Ruby (2015), and last year she nailed the Group Two Lyell Creek Stakes and the Group Three Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.

All up she's won 19 of her 63 starts and placed in 14 others for $360,020 in stakes.

"She's a wonderful mare to work with. I think she can perform well in New Zealand because she likes to travel and she has won on the track previously," Smith said.

Sunny Ruby has raced three times at Alexandra Park for a win and a placing. That win came in the Group Two Lyell Creek Stakes just prior to her heading to Australia (December 16).

"She beat a similar field to what she meets this Friday, so I'm forever hopeful. Ants will give her every chance," Smith said.

Sunny Ruby has drawn 15 of 15 in Friday's sixth running of the Group One $100,000 ANZAC Cup. No Australian-based square-gaiter has ever won the Free-For-All.

Sunny Ruby was bred by Fred Fletcher.