Award-winning trainer with good chances at Manawatu today

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Horowhenua trainer Murray Gibbs has had a lifelong passion for harness racing, which was acknowledged at the North Island Harness Racing Awards at Cambridge last week.

Gibbs was crowned 2022 North Island License To Train/Owner-trainer of the Year after a career best season of six wins and nine placings from 32 starts.

“It was a bit of a surprise. I have never been one for awards, but this one popped up out of the blue and I am very proud to win it,” Gibbs said.

“We had racing at Palmy this week and even though I have got a small team, it is a big trip up to Cambridge and back, and I just couldn’t fit it in with working the horses on Saturday. It was disappointing that I wasn’t able to make it up.

“I know Matty White quite well and he accepted the award for me and they passed it onto me at the races on Tuesday.”

While Gibbs has been training for more than 30 years, he said his main highlights have only come in the last few seasons.

“I have had a great couple of seasons and things have gone really well,” he said.

“In the last few years, winning the Manawatu Cup and Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes have been big highlights.

“When you train around here (Central Districts) you don’t have those New Zealand Cup goals, but those are our New Zealand Cup races that I have always wanted to win.

“To pick up both of those races in the last couple of seasons, and winning that award, have been great.”

Gibbs is hoping to continue his celebrations at Manawatu Raceway this week when he lines-ups Smokinhotcheddar in the Manawatu Harness Racing Club Country Cup (2500m) on Thursday.

The six-year-old mare has pulled up well following her fourth-placed run at the Palmerston North track on Tuesday, and Gibbs is looking for an improved result after drawing the one marble.

“I am very pleased with her,” he said.

“On Tuesday she jumped a shadow into the first bend which cost her getting the trail, which I think cost her from running second. She ended up parked again and they went 2:28 from a stand. She is as honest as they come.

“She is drawn to get a good run, but the standing start is the only query.”

Gibbs will also back-up Cristiano Buccini in the Congrats Penny Boyle Stablehand of the Year Mobile Pace (2500m).

The six-year-old finished sixth on Tuesday after being held up late and Gibbs is confident he will be right in the finish on Thursday if he gets the right run.

“I was very pleased with his run,” he said.

“We have worked out that he is better with a sit back in the field and we drove him for that on Tuesday night, because he drew seven, and if he had got a gap I think he would have been fighting out the first two placings.

“He has got a good draw (2) on Thursday. We are sticking with the junior driver to try and get the claim, so fingers-crossed.”

Gibbs has made a pleasing start to the new season, but he is disappointed that his momentum will be hindered from next month.

“We have started this season off pretty well with a couple of wins already,” he said.

“Our season is over in two weeks here (Central Districts), so we have to hit the ground running as trainers here because we only have that short gap where we can race locally.

“We have got a big gap after March 31 until our next meeting in October. We try and make the most of it.”

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