Alexandra Park briefs
Robbie gets Matua Tana home
By Garrick Knight
Recently-engaged Canterbury horseman Robbie Close was in the winner’s circle on Friday night, but not where you’d think.
Rather than his usual haunt, Addington, Close was back at his original home track in Auckland, winning behind Matua Tana at Alexandra Park.
Close and fellow ‘Cantab’ Jonny Cox are on a working holiday in the north for a month looking after the sizeable team of Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis, who train Matua Tana.
“They went to the Calgary Stampede in Canada and are now down in America, I think,” said Cox, who brought a handful of his own horses north, too.
Close has a longtime association with Hackett and Wallis and is very familiar with their stable and training style.
“It’s a little bit warmer than down south, but a lot more rain.
“But Bernie and Michelle have a very nice house that I’m staying in to make it easier.”
Matua Tana, bred and co-owned by Burnham’s Ben Smith, is a half-brother to ill-fated champion youngster Kahdon and closely related to the immortal Lyell Creek.
He joined Hackett and Wallis in Waiuku after racing for Paul Nairn on his annual West Coast pilgrimage at Christmas.
After a couple of impressive workouts, he went out well-supported by punters in his first two northern starts, but let the side down with costly early errors.
He was favourite again this week but Close got him round in one piece, ultimately leading to a very comfortable and impressive five-length win.
“He’s quite a nice horse in the making,” said Close soon after hosing the giant son of Love You down.
“You have to chase him the first hundred metres and then take a hold of him for the next hundred but once he’s balanced, he’s fine.
“He’s just big and lanky and will keep getting better with time.
“Once he learns what it’s all about, I can see him making open class; he’s a very good stayer.”
Team effort behind Akarana Prince win.
Tim Vince was quick to defer the credit for the maiden win of Akarana Prince on Friday night.
The son of Auckland Reactor capitalised on a cushy lead against a moderate field to win comfortably in the hands of Brent Mangos, one of three driving wins on the night for him.
The horse had proved problematic at times and Vince’s partner, Sheryl Wigg, who is also a co-owner, had been key in getting him heading in the right direction.
“It’s all Sheryl’s doing, this win,” said Vince post-race.
“I just have my name in the book and will claim the trainer’s percentage,” he quipped.
Akarana Prince found a field of promising two and three-year-olds a bit too hard to handle seven days earlier, but appreciated the drop in company this time.
“Last week was a bridge too far for him, but that race tonight suited him.
“He’s got plenty of maturing to do, so he can go out for a spell now.”
Wigg described the Auckland Reactor gelding as “silly” and always very keen early on.
A stint with Andre Poutama in Pukekohe also helped the horse.
“We sent him to Andrew for a month because we couldn’t stop him from pulling.
“He really did a lot for the horse and sent him back in good shape.”
Vince and Wigg, who have 14 in work at the Kumeu track at present, rounded out the night by claiming Destined For Heaven for $4,000 out of Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson’s stable.