Close branches out in to training

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Successful young driver Robbie Close will begin a new phase of his career in the harness racing industry this weekend when he lines up his first runner as a trainer.

The former Australasian Junior Drivers championship winner will take Majestic Mannequin to Sunday’s Kurow meeting and slip a set of his own colours on for the first time.

And while he’s hopeful more than he is confident, Close said it was a good time to get involved in the training side of the industry with the current incentives being offered to young trainers by Harness Racing New Zealand.

“That made it quite an easy decision and Regan Todd was really supportive of me doing it,” Close said.

“With the gear you get and the assistance that’s provided it’s a great scheme to make the most of and there’s a lot of younger people out there now who are making the move to make the most of it.”

Although he achieved 25 winners last term, the past 12 months was one of the least productive for Close in the sulky in terms of number of drives for quite some time, so it’s an ideal opportunity to start looking at the next steps of his career.

“I won’t be giving up the driving thing for training any time soon, but it’s always nice to muck around with one of your own and do something a little bit different.”

Majestic Mannequin isn’t the first horse Close has had a strong hand in the training of with a former horse of his, The Male Model, sold to Shane Tritton a few seasons back when officially in the care of Mark Jones.

“We got him up and going and to the trials and then he was sold on from there, and hopefully we can do the same with this one.”

A Majestic Son four-year-old, Majestic Mannequin is also raced by Close along with his partner Brooke McHardy and his parents, Michael and Shelly Close.

There’s no real expectation for this weekend, although he did win a trial impressively and then ran third behind Cuckoo’s Nest and Blue Coman, who finished second and third at Rangiora last weekend.

“It will be a bit of a learning experience for all of us, I think.

“The one draw isn’t ideal, but he did trot away pretty nicely at the trials last time out so hopefully he can do the same again.

“He goes ok. I think he will be a nice enough horse with a bit of experience and time on his side.”

As well as training one this weekend, Close will be hopeful of some good success in the sulky too.

He’s picked up the drive on Enchantee at Addington on Friday night, the mare an impressive last start winner for Nick Le Lievre.

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