Gibbs grabs double at Manawatu

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Levin trainer Murray Gibbs was left in awe of his two mares at the conclusion of racing at Manawatu Raceway on Thursday.

Manhattan Sunshine and Smokinhotcheddar gave Gibbs a winning double and he couldn’t have been happier.

“I am pinching myself, I am really pleased,” Gibbs said.

“They are two nice horses that haven’t had a lot of racing luck the entire season and things have just fallen into place recently.

“They have been working well all season and the horses deserve it.”

Manhattan Sunshine gave Gibbs his first win of the night when victorious in the Central Energy Trust Mobile Pace (2500m).

Driver Sam Thornley was able to secure an early trail behind Morrissey where Manhattan Sunshine was able to get an economical trip throughout.

The five-year-old mare took advantage of the passing lane and stormed away to a two length victory over Letsgodancing, with a further neck back to Raging Whitebait in third.

Gibbs, who also owns the daughter of Sunshine Beach, has taken a patient approach with the mare and he said it is starting to pay dividends.

“When I got Manhattan Sunshine off Tony Herlihy as a three-year-old, Tony said she is a nice horse, be patient and give her time,” Gibbs said.

“He was on the button. As she is getting older, she is maturing and getting better.”

Sam Thornley also reined Smokinhotcheddar home to win the C A Penny Mares Series Pickup & Win Mobile Pace (2000m).

“Sam Thornley’s drives were absolutely superb,” Gibbs said.

“He was on to try and get us the penalty free wins, which will make both of these horses careers now. It will hopefully help keep them in the country. Phil (Fleming, owner of Smokinhotcheddar) has had a bit of interest from Australia.

The pair make up Gibbs’ entire racing team, with the Horowhenua horseman mainly running a breaking-in and pre-training operation.

That is how Gibbs originally came about Smokinhotcheddar and he said it has been a thrill of a lifetime to be winning on the track after doing all her early education.

“I mainly do pre-training. I have got four that I pre-train and one had gone back up to Mike Berger tonight,” Gibbs said.

“I broke in Smokinhotcheddar and did all of her pre-training prior to her going up to Ray Green and Andre Poutama.

“To me it’s like I have won the New Zealand Cup. She came out of the paddock and came to my place as a yearling and I did all the work on her. To have her now and for her to be racing like this, is the highlight of my life.”

Smokinhotcheddar will get her chance to continue that thrill of a lifetime for Gibbs when she heads back to Palmerston North later this month to contest the CA Penny Mares Series Final.

“The racing at Manawatu is so good,” Gibbs said. “Cheddar qualified the first day for a $15,000 mares final at Palmerston North.

“They are both going forward to that Palmy meeting.”

Meanwhile, Cambridge trainer Arna Donnelly took out top honours in the feature race of the night, the 2022 The Cobb Manawatu Country Cup (2500m), with Rough and Ready who ran out a 3-3/4 length victor over Cya Art.

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