Hawera set for big day's racing

By Brigette Solomon

Quantity and quality are the order of the day on the grass at Hawera this afternoon.

The Hawera Harness Racing Club received strong nominations resulting in 11 races, with the two feature races of the day attracting quality horses with good depth of form.

The Taranaki Steelformers Stratford Cup Handicap Pace (Race 10 - 4.49pm) looks very open and features a field of consistent performers, several who already have a country cup or two to their name.

From the South Island, trainers Michael House and Matt Purvis, each have one horse competing.

The House runner, Johnny Mac, was a winner in the Westport Cup two starts ago and starts this assignment off the 10 metre line. The gelding will be driven by Wilson House, and the father and son House team are proving a formidable combination in the Central Districts.

Purvis’ runner, Smoke On The Water, is yet to win a race on the grass but finished second in the Reefton Cup on December 30.

“He came through his West Coast trip well and really stepped up to the Country Cup races there,” says Purvis.

“He travelled up here well, his work's been super and he doesn’t lose much of his speed on the grass.”

Meanwhile from Cambridge, Nicky Chilcott’s two starters warrant respect. The lightly raced mare Idolou has her first start on the grass with a 10 metre handicap. The Sweet Lou mare was a winner at her first three starts before being unplaced in the Group 1 Queen Of Hearts.

“We freshened her after her last start and she seems bright and well,” says Chilcott.

“She’s had a bit of stand start practice at home and I can’t see the grass track worrying her as she is beautifully gaited.”

Village Rebel is Chilcott’s other runner starting off the back mark of 30 metres, driven by stable Junior Driver Leah Hibell. At his last two starts the gelding won the Wairarapa Cup and Otaki Cup in good style and is currently the fixed odds favourite at $5.50.

“He loves the grass but being a 2100 metre race it will be a tough ask when giving 30 metres at the start,” says Chilcott.

“I expect he’ll go a good race but it’s a strong field with a few horses that wouldn’t surprise if they won.”

The feature trot of the day is Race 9, the Auto Super Shoppe Hawera Handicap Trot (4.16pm) over 2100 metres. Off the front line is Run Forest Run for Cambridge trainers Andrew and Lyn Neal, a winner of his last two starts at Cambridge Raceway, the most recent on January 7.

“We’re really happy with him, his work's good and he’s in good form,” says Neal.

“It’s his first time racing on grass but he’s had a practice run and we’re expecting a forward showing from him.”

Also off the front is The River Boy for Clevedon trainer Matthew White. While unplaced in his most recent starts, he was a strong winner at Alexandra Park two starts ago and doesn’t lack ability.

“We’ve treated some minor issues on him and his work over the past week suggests he’s back on track,” says White.

“It will be his first time on the grass but I think he’ll appreciate the big roomy track.”

Romeo Foxtrot, trained and driven by David Butcher, is the sole back marker off a 20 metre handicap. A last start winner at Cambridge Raceway on January 19, the gelding will be making his grass track debut.

“It will be hard for him off 20 metres but with a few on the unruly in front we might get a good run through and hopefully an easy trip,” says Butcher.

Today is the first of two days at Hawera, with racing continuing on Sunday.

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