Franco Riot aiming for hat-trick at Cambridge

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk

Former southerner Franco Riot has pleasantly surprised trainer Abz Holdaway with the way he has performed since joining her Pukekohe barn.

The son of McCardle has won both of his starts this preparation and Holdaway said he has far exceeded her expectations after originally being bought to target amateur driver races.

“He is going super at the minute,” she said.

“We didn’t really expect much when he first got here. We actually bought him to be an amateur racehorse and things didn’t quite go to plan, so we just put him in a normal race.”

Franco Riot arrived at Holdaway’s Pukekohe property in March and she said she was fortunate to be able to keep him ticking over on her private training track during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown.

“We have been pretty lucky because we have our own track here, so we had a bit of an upper-hand being able to continue to tick him over during lockdown,” she said.

“We are on 25 acres and have a 780m sand track with a hill, which always helps too.”

Franco Riot had developed a good association with reinsman Andre Poutama, with the pair remaining undefeated in the North to date, however they will meet as foes at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night in the Dunstan Horse Feeds Mobile Pace (2200m).

Poutama has elected to take the drive behind last start winner Texas Tiger, so Franco Riot’s owner Mark Colson will be in the cart on Thursday, where they will start from the outside of the front row.

“It’s a bit of a tough draw, eight,” Holdaway said. “Mark Colson, his owner, will be driving him so I will leave it up to him and see what eventuates.

“He went to the workouts on Friday and we were really pleased with him. He sat back last and ran home well, so it will be interesting to see how he goes.”

Franco Riot had been the sole racehorse in Holdaway’s care, but she has since had a couple of new acquisitions to her barn, including Debbie Lee Galleon who will contest the Melanie At Harcourts Birthday Handicap Trot (2200m) on Thursday.

Holdaway doesn’t hold any expectations heading into Thursday with the five-year-old trotter and just wants to get a line on the daughter of Majestic Son in her first start for the stable.

“We will just see how she goes, there is no pressure on her at all,” Holdaway said. “I just want her to do everything right.”

Holdaway returned to New Zealand, and harness racing, last year after a stint working in Australia for a couple of thoroughbred trainers and she said she is enjoying being back training.

“I went to Australia for a year and a half and worked for David Hayes at Lindsay Park and then Shannon Hope,” she said.

Originally starting her career in the thoroughbred industry, Holdaway transitioned to harness racing shortly after and was able to care for one of the modern greats of the sport.

“I started off with the gallopers and then moved to Geoff Small’s barn,” Holdaway said.

“I was with him for nearly five years. That was when Elsu was going around, so that was my grounding.

“You take it for granted when you are a bit younger, but you look back on it now and think wow.”

Heading into the new season Holdaway said she hasn’t got any set goals, but would just like to continue to be competitive with her small team.

“I just enjoy going to the races and being competitive,” she said.

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