Robbie Close's "awesome" 500th win

By Jonny Turner

Robbie Close’s salute as he crossed the line with his 500th winner in New Zealand said it all.

The popular reinsman knocked off the milestone with a peach of a drive behind the Regan Todd trained Tide And Time at Addington on Friday night.

Close gave the same kind of salute he produced when winning the Group 1 Standardbred Breeders Stakes at Addington with Bettor Talk Art in 2022.

Though the reinsman knew stipendiary stewards wouldn’t be terribly impressed with his gesture, he felt the moment deserved it.

“I knew I would get a warning for it, but I had to do it anyway,” Close said.

“It was awesome to be able to get the 500.”

Close’s march towards 500 wins began at the same track in 2010 when he scored with the Robbie Holmes trained First Art.

Making half a ton wasn’t in the young reinsman’s thoughts then, but it became a realistic goal after Close established himself as a top-flight driver.

“When you first start off all you want to do is drive one winner.”

“I have a lot of people to thank along the way.”

“I have driven plenty of winners for Regan and it has been great working with him.”

“Andrew Stuart and Coaster Howe have both been very good to me.”

“As well as my aunty and uncle Bernie and Michelle Hackett, who have been great supporters of mine.”

“There are so many people I can’t name them all, I have been lucky to have had such good support over the years.”

Group 1 glory at Addington is at the top of Close’s career highlights, but another special moment ranks highly for the reinsman.

“Definitely, Bettor Talk Art’s Group One was a huge thrill.”

“She was a lovely little horse and she won a Southland Oaks too.”

“Another one – it was only a minor race – but I won a race at Methven the day my nana passed away.”

“That is right up there, too.”

Close has edged closer to 500 wins over the past few weeks, with the winners not flowing as quickly as they have at other times in his career.

But the reinsman showed he hasn’t lost any of his skill when producing a pinpoint drive to land Tide And Time a perfect trip in the trail.

“Some of the horses I have driven lately haven’t quite been in the right races.”

“The more you try to push towards these kinds of milestones the harder it can get.”

“The last couple of weeks I have been thinking that if it happens, it happens.”

“And if it doesn’t then tomorrow is another day and we just carry on.”

In sealing his 500th win, Close got the extra thrill of delivering a win for part-owner Katie Cox.

Cox prepared Tide And Time for her co-owners Malcolm and Dianna Gillies before her battle with lung cancer.

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