By Michael Guerin
One of our leading trotting trainers thinks the post-Covid racing world may force a change to the way fellow trainers think.
And that could mean more horses having busier careers if trainer Michelle Wallis is right.
Wallis and husband-training partner Bernie Hackett return to their beloved Alexandra Park tonight for the first horse racing meeting in Auckland since lockdown in late March.
The meeting hosts just six races as many trainers are still getting horses back to peak fitness while others who raced at Cambridge’s comeback meeting last Sunday are reluctant to back their horses up.
Wallis, who has won the NZ trainer’s premiership for trotters, will back up two horses on the four-day turnaround and says with reduced racing options and lower stakes post-Covid, that could become the norm.
“I can see people lining up some horses more often,” says Wallis.
“I wouldn’t suit all horses but a lot of horses who are sound and fit could race more often.”
That would me music to the ears of northern harness administrators who often struggle for full fields, particularly at Alexandra Park where there has been something of a bias that the racing is too hard for many lower grade horses and they instead head to Cambridge.
With Cambridge and Alexandra Park set to race for similar stakes for most grades of races for the foreseeable future, that could address the imbalance.
Wallis and Hackett bring 12 horses to Alexandra Park tonight, all in trotting races and punters won’t have to wait too long for their best bet.
“We think Asteria Lavra is our best chance of the six we have in race one,” offers Wallis.
“She missed away at the workouts last week but that is not like her and if she trots all the way she will be too fast for most of these.”
Vatican Hill (race three) has been trialing well leading into race three but it is a very competitive field for this stage of the comeback to racing, with last season’s Jewels runner-up Tricky Ric well placed off the the front line.
“One horse we have who really enjoyed the lockdown break is Magnafique (race five). She has been working well and I think she is a good each way chance.”
The night’s main pacing feature sees Major Jellis (race two) the $1.80 favourite but that looks very skinny for a two-race winner against some rivals with plenty more victories on the board.
“He should be ok from barrier one but he is not guaranteed leader,” said trainer Barry Purdon.
If he can lead or trail Major Jellis becomes the one to beat but in a small tricky field Flying Steps looks at least as good a chance.