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A driving/training double

Brent Barclay enjoyed a driving double on his home track at Winton this afternoon, both winners coming for trainer Brett Gray.

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It’s a burgeoning partnership, the Gray and Barclay one, and they have accrued 30 wins in the past two terms before today’s brace.

“One thing about Brett, he’s very loyal,” says Barclay.

“He sends his spellers up to me to be jogged up and we do the ground work on a few of his horses before they go back to him.

“And he’s got some good owners, so he’s getting new horses all the time.”

Gray is looking forward to the new season.

“We’ve got some nice horses coming through for later on.

“I’m quite happy with the team, it’s probably one of the better teams I’ve had, actually.”

The pair caused an early upset in race two when downing one of the day’s shortest-priced favourites, Shawami Lass, with Ideal Conquest.

Barclay went to the front on the daughter of American Ideal and rated her to a nicety, scoring easily in a 1.56.9 mile rate by three lengths.

She was never really looked at it in front but, if she was, it wouldn’t have changed the result according to the driver.

“It wouldn’t have really mattered if something came and worked her over, that is actually the way she prefers to race.

“She’s better with the pace on and doing work the whole way.

“Today was the first time she’s ever been focussed in front - usually she loses focus, so it was very encouraging.”

Shane Walkinshaw opted to go back with Shawami Lass and it was the losing of the race, but Barclay reckons if the favourite had gone forward, she would have come off second best.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if Shane had crossed me; I would have sat outside him and driven him in to the ground.”

Trainer Brett Gray re-iterated Barclay’s thought.

“She’s a very tough horse and seems to go just as good parked as she does leading or in behind.

“It’s really funny – she usually pulls in front and relaxes in behind so maybe the penny has dropped with her.

“We took her on a trip up to Oamaru at the end of last season and that seems to have really helped her mentally.”

One race later, Smokey Mac put up a huge performance to win his trot, recovering from a bad check at the 400-metre mark to motor through the middle and score comfortably.

The horse has the ability, and the speed, it’s just about his early manners, according to Barclay.

“He’s still got a lot to learn; he’s always had the ability, he just gets upset at the start.

“In time he will be a really handy horse around Southland.”

He was fresh-up since April but had had two workouts to fit him for today’s resumption, though they were sorely needed.

“He finished next to Mass Invasion one week and dead-heated with Poppymalda the next, but badly blew out afterwards.

“He only does what he has to sometimes, so it can be hard to get a line on him.”

Gray says the key to Smokey Mac is keeping calm, especially at the start.

“He does everything perfectly at home, but can just get a bit fizzed up on race day.

“It was always going to be a case of if Brent got him away cleanly today.

“He’s a good-gaited trotter and has the speed to work his way through the grades down here.”

Barclay says Gray has a nice up-and-comer that is probably the horse he is most looking forward to driving this season.

“We qualified one today before the races called The Heart Rulz.

“He’s by Live Or Die and a pretty good horse in the making; I can’t wait to drive him on race day.”