May gets the job done on Te Kawau

By Duane Ranger

He’s a driving legend and now after 39 seasons in the bike Ricky May has nailed his first winner at Manawatu Raceway.

Mind you the ‘Methven Maestro’ has only ever driven at the track once before in his 18,981 lifetime drives - and that was on April 7, 1993, when he had a second behind the Michael House trained Vee Mee.

May had six drives on the second day of the Manawatu meeting at Palmerston North on Sunday for two seconds and two thirds - but recorded the victory he wanted when the Manawatu’s best pacer won the Manawatu’s premier race.

Te Kawau was simply too strong for his 11 opponents in the $15,000 Speight’s Ale House Manawatu Cup – a 2500m mobile for the C2 to C6 pacers.

He started from the second line, but when Te Kawau got to the lead after 600m it looked like he was cruising to his 10th win in 27 starts – and second in four days at Palmerston North.

“He actually raced a bit keen. Stephen (Doody) said he had never done that when he had got to the front previously - so it wasn’t what I expected.

“Even though he was over-racing you could just feel that he is a quality pacer. He gave when he had to. Give him six months and I think he will be right up there with some of the best. He’s got a lot of improvement in him yet,” May said.

When Te Kawau and May led at the foot of the home straight it looked like they were a sitting duck for the swoopers.

But May found another gear out of the 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding and they kicked away to beat Vibhuti (Brent Mangos) and Lewy Rick (Peter Ferguson) by half a length and three quarters of a length. Mach Cullen and David Butcher were 3-1/2 lengths back in third.

Favourite, Te Kawau stopped the clock in 3:12.6 (mile rate 2:04) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 58.6 and 29.4.

On Thursday Te Kawau won the Palmertsonian Pace with a 1:59 mile rate when winning that 2000m mobile in 2:27.9.

On Sunday he paid $2.50 to win. On Thursday he was the $2.20 favourite.

Te Kawau is owned by his breeders K.R. and Mrs. S.D. Farrier. His bank balance now sits at $93,824.

Doody said he would now aim Ta Kawau towards the Taylor Mile and New Zealand Messenger at Alexandra Park in April and May.

May believed he would be a good chance against his own age group.

“He’s already raced well from awkward against some of the best at Alexandra Park. I’ll be driving the Benny (Brendon) Hill trained Dalton Bromac in the big 4-year-old races but I wouldn’t mind being behind Te Kawau – especially over the longer Messenger distance.

“He isn’t a big horse but he has a nice motor and even though he over-raced he has a very nice gait and way of going about his business,” May said.

May was delighted when Te Kawau’s trainer offered him the drive after Doody won behind him in the Palmerstonian.

“The moment Stephen asked me I thought, great I’ll have at least winner. I couldn’t get on him quick enough. I knew how good he was – especially on his home track,” May said.

May and his wife Judy were invited to the meeting after May was a popular guest speaker at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club’s annual awards ceremony in Palmerston North in the winter.

“I didn’t hesitate when the club asked me. I had a great time that night and I also had a great time driving today (Sunday). It’s a great little track and it’s a great feeling to finally land a winner there – especially behind a very nice horse.

“There are still a few other tracks I haven’t won on. Cromwell comes to mind. Hopefully I’ve still got enough time to win my first race at a few of those other tracks,” he said.

For the record the $6,000 Ricky and Judy May Handicap for C0 and C1 trotters (race one) was won by the Allan Shutkowski (Blenheim) trained and driven Elsu Attack.

It was Shutkowski’s first training success this season and first in the bike since 2012.

He then went on to train C A Penny (Brent Mangos) and Molly Sims (Mangos) to win races two and four.