Tennessee as Tough as Teak

By Jonny Turner

After producing the grittiest of Roxburgh Cup victories, trainer Brett Gray revealed it is not just Memphis Tennessee who has had to be tough.

The pacer sat parked for the last lap of yesterday’s 2700m feature and was there to be caught in the home straight before he willed himself to put his nose in front on the line in a thrilling feature.

It was clear Memphis Tennessee was a horse with a few of his own character traits as he shuffled into his winning photo.

Gray confirmed as much when revealing the pacer would not hesitate before latching on to his arm as a younger horse.

Thankfully, his fighting qualities came out in the most positive fashion when he claimed yesterday’s feature.

"He is a weirdo. He keeps us on our toes, but he is a lovely wee weirdo, really," Gray said.

Memphis Tennessee’s antics have been on show for all to see in the past. He has regularly galloped away in standing starts.

But he was on his best behaviour yesterday which was the key to him going two places better than his third in last year’s Roxburgh Cup.

"The wee fella is a hard case. He made a good beginning today. Normally he is a wee bit slow, but he has been getting better," Gray said.

"He always seems to come right this time of year."

"We had a few troubles getting to the [New Zealand] Cup meeting, but we gave him a freshen-up and it was the best thing we have ever done."

Memphis Tennessee is one of several horses Robert and Sharyn Symon have raced with Gray and the pacer has helped continue their strong association.

"They have been great supporters, Robert and Sharyn and the Symon family, and they’re great friends as well."

A masterful Brent Barclay drive helped Gray notch a winner earlier yesterday. Barclay found a split at the right time for Swedish Starlet who charged home to take out race 5.

The pacer is raced by key Gray stable contributor, breeder and owner Russell Morton.

"I was thrilled for Russell. He’s our major stable man and we are really rapt to see him get this win," Gray said.

Another pinpoint Brent Barclay drive enabled the Kirstin Barclay-trained Mighthavtime home in yesterday’s Southland Oaks heat. The filly beat more experienced and race-winning rivals in an impressive second start at the races.

Kirstin Barclay rounded out a successful day when she took the reins behind Wattlebank Star who produced a very strong front-running win in race 11.

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