Gibbs duo primed for Manawatu

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Horowhenua trainer Murray Gibbs is looking forward to being reunited with his race team at Manawatu Raceway on Tuesday.

Both Manhattan Sunshine and I Won’t Back Down have been in the care of Cambridge trainer Mike Berger over the last few weeks as Gibbs has recovered from a training accident last month.

“They have been up with Mike Berger for a couple of weeks. I had a training accident about three weeks ago and I broke a couple of fingers in my right hand,” Gibbs said.

The pair arrived at Berger’s in good form, with both placing at Otaki’s January 4 meeting.

While both horses were being aimed at Manawatu Raceway’s Tuesday meeting for their resuming run, Berger was pleased with the way Manhattan Sunshine was working and advised Gibbs to race her at Cambridge Raceway last week.

“We were going to wait for Palmy, but she was working that well Mike rang me and said he thought we should give her a run at Cambridge.

“It was her first run for a month and she went very well (running third).”

The daughter of Sunshine Beach will line-up in The Cobb Mobile Pace (2200m) at Manawatu Raceway on Tuesday where she has drawn barrier two and will be driven by junior reinsman Luke Whittaker.

“She is going very well and from the draw I expect a good run,” Gibbs said.

“She is a 22-start maiden, but she works like a two-to-three-win horse. She is one of those horses who is just going to take time.”

Gibbs will also contest the Paul Claridge Electrical Mobile Pace (2000m) with three-year-old filly I Won’t Back Down.

The daughter of A Rocknroll Dance is having just her second raceday start and Gibbs believes she has a promising future after placing on debut at Otaki last month.

“She is one that I am quite excited about because she is a three-year-old filly and that was her first start,” he said.

“My main owner, John Peters, bred her and he has bred another couple of young ones that I have got in training.

“She is the first one that he has bred that I have raced for him out of his mare (Always Rushing). We were very pleased with her first-up run.”

Gibbs trains five horses at his Levin property and he said he is looking forward to reuniting with his race team on Tuesday.

“I have got a 15-acre property and a 700m all-weather training track,” Gibbs said. “Palmerston North is a 40-minute drive away and I go over there once a week and have a workout with Stephen Doody, or one of the trainers over there. It works in really well.

“I have got five horses - two racehorses, a couple of two-year-olds, and a yearling. I just try to do four or five, and it’s just a small, boutique operation.

“I got the cast off four days ago, so I am on the mend. Mike is bringing the horses down to Palmy and I will bring them home from there.”

Gibbs was delighted to see the strong support from trainers for Tuesday’s meeting, showing the need for harness racing to continue in the central districts.

“I am rapt to see the nominations and the fact they are holding six races,” he said. “It’s not that long ago we were worried that they were not going to have any racing down here. It’s great to see them being supported and the interest is there.”

Gibbs has enjoyed three decades as a trainer and he said it was all started when he hopped in the cart for the first time as a teenager.

“Noel Lochhead was a great mate of my father’s,” he said. “In my early teens, Dad would go and visit him in Masterton and then one day Noel gave me a drive behind an old trotter he had.

“I just got the bug, and once you get the bug you are hooked.”

Gibbs subsequently took out his trainer’s license in 1991 and has recorded 36 victories in that time. While he said he hasn’t trained a topliner, he has enjoyed working with a few “hand-me-downs” from city trainers.

“Over the years I have had a good association with Tony Herlihy,” Gibbs said. “He has given me a few that haven’t quite made the grade up in Auckland. Myeyesadoreya, Cerberus, and Mr Billiards, just to name a few.

“They appreciate the smaller stable and the racing down here.”

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