Sleepless night for McGrath


The New Zealand Trotting Cup might just about be a bridge too far but the man behind last season’s New Zealand Derby winner isn’t too fussed if he’s not there on the second Tuesday in November.

Although, if he is - he’ll be over the moon.

Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath was expecting a rather sleepless night on Tuesday as he pondered over what to do with his stable star, Sheriff, this week when it comes to Monday’s Labour Day meeting at Ashburton.

As it currently stands, he’s nominated for the Ashburton Flying Stakes but there is a distinct possibility McGrath may elect to miss the key lead up to the Cup and bypass it for the lower grade handicap race on the programme instead.

“He’s going to have a run around at the trials tomorrow (Wednesday),” McGrath said on Tuesday evening.

“But he’s not in until later in the afternoon and the withdrawal time for Ashburton is 10am, so I’m going to have to make my mind up overnight.”

A slight setback has McGrath a couple of weeks behind the eight ball with the four-year-old, but should he choose to progress towards the Cup there are still options available to get him there.

Currently ranked just outside the cut off for the final field, he’d probably need a placing in the Flying Stakes to elevate himself into the field, but there is also the potential for a trip to Kaikoura.

“Initially I wasn’t even intending on going up there with him, but we may just see what the nominations are like.

“We’d need some luck to make the Cup field, but it could happen so the focus is really on just trying to have him as ready as we can just in case.

“There’s also the Cup Trial we can use if we need to as well.”

McGrath said should the Cup not eventuate, the target would instead become the New Zealand Free-For-All on Show Day before turning his attention to the plethora of opportunities available later in the season.

“I haven’t spoke to the owners about it yet, but we’ll make the decision in due course, I guess.

“Ultimately you want to be in the Cup, it’s a great race. But the Free-For-All is worth $250,000 and the Cup horses have usually had a pretty hard run a few days earlier, so it’s not a bad back up plan.”

Aside from the deliberations, McGrath said he couldn’t be happier with the horse despite that setback.

“He’s in a really good space, I’m very happy with him. And he should only improve with runs under his belt.”

McGrath withdrew his other Cup contender, Classie Brigade from the race nominations last week.

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