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Nigel McGrath eyes 500 wins

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath is just 10 wins away from reaching the notable milestone of 500 career training wins and will soon launch an impressive spring racing team.

Classie Brigade, the winner of 11 from 35 starts, is being aimed at the New Zealand Cup (3200m) on the second Tuesday of November at Addington.

“He’s back in work and looking toward the New Zealand Cup,” McGrath said of the five-year-old Bettor’s Delight stallion, who has not raced since May. 

He won six from 13 last season, including the 3200m Invercargill Cup in January in 3:53.5, after starting from 30m behind. Lazarus clocked 3:51.3 in winning the NZ Cup by 10 lengths.

“Ears Burning [seven wins] will head in the same direction. It won’t be easy but both deserve the shot.”

Also waiting in the wings until the weather turns are Aloka, Sherriff, Star Commander and Dizzy Miss Lizzy - all capable of doing very good things this season.

“On what they all showed in their previous campaigns you would like to think that one or two of them will take the next step up.

“Aloka showed how good he can be early on, while Sherriff and Star Commander both have a heap of potential.

“Dizzy Miss Lizzy will be aimed towards the filly races which will see her come in a bit later on in the season.

“They’ll all target the classic races.”

But before the big guns start firing, McGrath has some useful firepower to help him edge towards the 500-win mark, after starting training in the year 2000.

Two of them will step out at Sunday’s Rangiora meeting, with Turkish Trousers and My Wee Man both flying the stable flag.

Both horses are fresh-up and will derive benefit from their races, but both are strong chances after trialling well.

Turkish Trousers, second at Rangiora in January, was tidy at a recent workout and McGrath is expecting a good showing from the one draw on Sunday in race four, the first leg of a $25,000 Pick6.

“She’s a nice enough mare who is more than capable of going close fresh-up. I wouldn’t say she’s a world beater, but she should do a nice enough job this time in. With her good gate speed I would expect her to settle handy to the speed.

“I thought her workout last week was pretty good. She’ll improve with the run, but gets a good chance fresh-up.”

My Wee Man is a horse who McGrath has always had plenty of time for.

“We had issues with his gait last time, but the motor has always been there. I think he will do a good job this time in and gelding him really seems to have worked the oracle. Hopefully, he lives up to what I think he is capable off.”

A four-year-old entire by Changeover, My Wee Man’s sole win in nine starts was at Rangiora. He takes on impressive Ashburton winner The Kiwi Way in race nine, who has drawn the ace for trainer-driver Robbie Holmes.