Local takes out Manawatu Cup
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
A change in environment has proven to be a masterstroke with three-year-old gelding Hail Lucius.
His connections elected to bring him back to the Central Districts after racing in the competitive Canterbury scene and entrusted him to Levin trainer Murray Gibbs.
The Horowhenua horseman struck instant success with the horse, securing a win first-up for the stable at Manawatu Raceway on Tuesday and he returned to the Palmerston North track two days later to take out The Cobb Manawatu Cup (2500m).
Gibbs was delighted with the win, which was made even more special by his association with the ownership group, which includes Taranaki trainer Phil Fleming.
“I am over the moon. I get pretty excited when I get a win, but to win the Manawatu Cup when you train here is our goal,” Gibbs said.
“They are a great bunch of owners and it is an association I have had with the Flemings for quite a while.
“I trained his dam, Wicklow Heather, to win her only race about 22 years ago.
“She has gone on to leave Hail Christian among numerous other winners. It is a great breed.”
Gibbs said the victory is indicative of why there is a place for Central Districts harness racing on the racing calendar.
“He is a great advertisement for lower North Island racing,” Gibbs said.
“He is a really nice three-year-old that went down to Addington and won two races quite quickly.
“Because of the competitiveness of city racing, he just got a bit off with the game. The owners decided to bring him back to Manawatu to let him have a freshen-up and to get his confidence back.
“I have only had him for a month, and we have just worked on trying to relax him and enjoy racing again, and now he has got his confidence back.
“I love my rugby and you see the odd All Black is told to go back to club rugby for two or three months and rejuvenate and come back. Hail Lucius is that in a nutshell.
“He is now going to be a horse that will stay in New Zealand and he will end up racing back in the city in the near future.”
Gibbs is enjoying having the gelding in his care and is hoping for another Cup success before he heads back to the big smoke.
“A lot of the owners are from Taranaki and they have the Hawera Cup on their radar,” Gibbs said.
“At this stage we will target the Hawera Cup and then after that I would say he would be back with Regan (Todd).”
Gibbs was also excited to pick up the $1,500 winning bonus for Hail Lucius’ second win at Manawatu.
“The Club runs a $1,500 bonus for every second win during the season. Hail Lucius is the second horse to win it and it is a great incentive,” Gibbs said.
“It is a great stake, and he is racing for it at Palmy.”
The win made Gibbs even more excited about the prospects of Hail Lucius’ year younger half-brother, All Hail Me, as he gets set to qualify in the near future.
“I have got a two-year-old Art Major half-brother to Hail Lucius. I really like him and I have bought a small share in him myself,” Gibbs said.
“We are just in the stages of building up and getting ready to qualify. I am really looking forward to him.”