Onwards and Upwards

NZ HARNESS NEWS

Nigel McGrath had a day to forget at Ashburton on Monday with two starters and two last finishes but neither are a concern now and it’s onwards and upwards with a strong team coming to hand nicely for Cup Week.

Sheriff was a genuine disappointment when resuming in the race won by Turn It Up, but was later found to be suffering from a lower lung infection and he’ll be on hand for the Cup Trials next week.

“We were really pleased with his (winning) trial at Rangiora last week and Blair (Orange, driver) said he was so full of himself he could hardly hold on to him, which is what I’d expect with him,” said McGrath.

“But he was just too relaxed and very lethargic in his prelim at Ashburton and clearly he wasn’t himself, and we soon found out why.”

Last season’s New Zealand Derby winner remains in the New Zealand Cup at this stage, ranked 18th, but this is now “up in the air” and probably doubtful.

“I haven’t spoken to the owners yet, but having effectively missed a race at Ashburton, I’m probably going to defer and recommend he just targets the Free For All on the Friday.”

Lazarus’ half-brother Artstanding also resumed, half an hour after Sheriff, and finished last but that problem was much more clear cut and obvious.

A broken hopple carrier during the run resulted in him galloping in the run home and that led to the other hopple carrier breaking, too.

Artstanding, who won his sole start at Gore in May against maiden two-year-olds, was also good in getting home very strongly at the Rangiora workouts five days earlier and was sent off the favourite for the last event.

Gavin Smith drove Artstanding and had him nicely placed in the running line to the home turn.

“Gavin said he still felt like he was on a winner until he galloped,” said McGrath.

“He’s got a really big engine but not the co-ordination at this point.

“He has untapped potential and being a big horse, I don’t think we’ll see the best of him until after Christmas.”

Artstanding and also Gran Chico, who made further progress when winning at Addington last Friday night, will now line up in the last Sires Stakes heat at Addington next Friday.

The news is not so good around open class pacer Classie Brigade, however.

He was under offer after two underwhelming races in August, but he failed the vet test and is heading for a spell again.

“We ran the dye through him and it highlighted some minor issues which need to be addressed.

“So, we’ll do that and then he can go out for three months again.

“We’re also going to geld him otherwise he’ll get too big and heavy during a spell.”

The runner-up in the New Zealand Derby won by Lazarus two-and-a-half years ago, Classie Brigade was sidelined with an injury last spring and was off the scene for a year before resuming with a win in Auckland in June.

It has been a quiet start to the season for McGrath with Gran Chico his only winner so far, although Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Gore Bay, My Wee Man and Star Commander are all “good to go” again as well.

“I’m very happy with all of them, particularly Dizzy Miss Lizzy, and it’s just a matter of picking our spots with them now.

“They’re going to be going so bloody hard now and you need to try and ease your way back into things rather than trying to do too much, too soon.”

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