Berger quartet head to Manawatu
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Manawatu Raceway has been a happy stomping ground for Mike Berger over the years, and the Cambridge trainer is supporting the club with four horses in their final week of racing for the season.
“It’s the last week at Manawatu for the season and they have been a pretty good club to me over the years, so I like to show a bit of support,” Berger said.
His quartet’s first port of call will be Tuesday’s meeting where Berger will line-up Spirit Of Anzac and Eagle Watch in the South Taranaki Club Hawera Cup Mobile Pace (2000m).
Spirit Of Anzac has been in pleasing form of late, winning four times this year, and the Bettor’s Delight gelding will be looking to make it five on Tuesday.
“He has been in great form in the last few weeks,” Berger said. “I am pretty happy with him and the way he is going.
“The second row (10) is not the worst draw because if they go hard early, and his style is to follow pace, so I think the draw will suit him.”
Eagle Watch hasn’t raced since December last year and Berger said as a result the Group One performer will need a soft trip.
“He has had no trials and it has been a wee while since he has raced,” Berger said.
“He is not ready to do a lot of work in the race, but if he gets the right trip he can still give them a shake.”
Stablemate Barbarossa is in the same boat when he contests the Brendon Towers Plumbing (Grad Series Heat 5) Mobile Pace (2000m).
“He is first-up,” Berger said. “I would have liked to have had a trial or two under his belt, but he has been working well.
“We are expecting him to put in a good effort. The only thing I am concerned about is the race-fitness.”
Berger’s quartet will be completed by Doctor Love in the Manawatu Festival Gold Cup On Thursday Mobile Pace (2000m).
The son of Sweet Lou put in a subpar unplaced performance at the Palmerston North track earlier in the month, before redeeming himself with a third-placing a week later.
Berger is hoping he has continued on an upward trajectory heading into Tuesday.
“I have left him down there with Stephen Doody because the plan was to race him right through over these Manawatu meetings,” Berger said.
“It was a bit of an improved run last start and I am pretty happy with the way he has come through that run.”
While pleased to see a handful of meetings return to Manawatu Raceway this year, Berger said with the Palmerston North track being the last bastion of harness racing in the Central Districts, it needs further support with more meetings.
“I think that it is imperative that they get back to what they were doing pre-COVID,” Berger said. “They are a club that work hard and pay good stakes.
“They have a good strong base of horses and trainers around the Central Districts area. If that goes there is going to be a whole lot of people and horses you are going to lose.
“It has been proven over the years that once you take something out of an area, the interest goes.
“They (Central Districts trainers) come up here and race at Cambridge and it helps the fields up here. We can’t afford to lose harness racing in the area.”
Berger said the Central Districts circuit also allows many horses to continue to race competitively.
“We all complain about the rating system, no matter what it is, but at the end of the day tracks rate your horses. You race your horse where they can be competitive,” he said.
“If you have got a horse battling up at Auckland, predominantly you race at Cambridge. If you have got a horse that is battling around Cambridge and the Central Districts circuit is coming up, you race them there.
“If you take that away, all of those horses will go because they won’t be kept in work.”