A memorable day for Close


His first training winner was memorable on more than one level for Robbie Close at Rangiora on Sunday.

The diminutive horseman, noted as an accomplished freelance driver to this point in his career, recorded win number one as a trainer when Majestic Mannequin streeted her opponents by eight lengths in the maiden trot.

And while chalking up what will no doubt be the first of many was satisfying, the presence of those closest to him made it all that more notable.

“My parents came down for the day and were on course for the win, as was my girlfriend.

“We all own the horse together so that made it a bit more special for me.”

Close purchased the now four-year-old daughter of Majestic Son as a yearling and drafted his Waiuku-based parents, Michael and Shelley, and girlfriend Brooke McHardy in to the ownership.

“I bought her at the Auckland yearling sales for $8,000 and immediately rung my father to see if they would take a half-share.

“Brooke came in for 10 percent too and I kept the rest.”

Majestic Mannequin has always shown ability but has benefitted from patience on her trainer’s part.

“She’s always been quite weak-minded so it was by design that she didn’t race until she was four.

“But she’s been slowly coming to it, getting better and better and has really turned the corner.”

While you’d think a comprehensive eight-length winner would be favourite, that wasn’t the case.

Punters had bought in to the hype of champion trotter Tornado Valley’s half-brother, Steel Dust, who was on debut after trialing up a storm recently.

So had Close.

“She felt pretty good throughout, especially on the last bend, but I was worried about Steel Dust.

“I didn’t realise he had broken earlier though.

“Once my mare was around the last bend, I was happy because she was always travelling good.”

If a sale deal doesn’t eventuate in the interim, Close will chase a penalty-free win in a junior drivers’ race next.

“There are a few options coming up for her, but it all depends if the right offer comes through to buy her.

“We will look at selling her.”

Close, who did his formative years in the game with Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett in Waiuku, is now employed by Regan Todd on the beach at Woodend.

He trains just the one horse, but is open to adding to that while learning from a slew of experienced trainers.

“Regan is a very good trainer and one I enjoy learning off.

“Then I’ve also got the influence of Davey Butt there too, and Mark Jones as well; they all look after me.

“Eventually I’d like to train a lot more on my own, but I’m pretty happy working for Regan right now.“

  • Garrick Knight, NZ Harness News

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