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It’ll be a night to remember for Luke Whittaker at Alexandra Park this evening.
The Cambridge-based junior driver not only takes his first runner to the races as a trainer, he also has a race named after him.
And he could very well win ‘his race’ too.
The ticking over of the new season brought with it the execution of a long-held plan to get his trainers license and his first horse is an unraced family-owned mare, Major Rage.
She starts in the first race on the card and has come up on the second line of betting with bookies, at $4.80.
“It’s a pretty special moment for me with mum and dad and nan and grandad owning her,” Whittaker told HRNZ.
“I always wanted my first winner as a trainer to be for them so hopefully it will come with her, if not this week, then soon.”
Major Rage was a workout winner at Cambridge a fortnight ago and that should put her in good stead for tonight’s race.
“She’s a typical Art Major – very green and will only get better with racing.
“Her trial two weeks ago was very good and I’m pretty happy with her.”
Once he finishes washing down Major Rage and puts her back in her stall, Whittaker will have to prepare himself for his other drive on the night, All Yours.
The big, bold pacer has been going gangbusters for Mike Berger and Matthew White recently and presents as a very strong chance tonight.
Bookies agree and have him a $4.40 second favourite behind Sole Ambition.
Curiously, the race is named the Luke Whittaker – AP’s Leading Jnr 18/19 Mobile Pace.
It is, of course, a gesture on the Auckland Trotting Club’s part to acknowledge that Whittaker drove six winners at ‘The Park’ last term, the most of any junior driver.
“It was a bit of a surprise because they didn’t really say anything to me about it.”
He’s unsure whether he will get a race memento as the ‘sponsor’ but should he get the job done on All Yours, it would be a photo worth putting on the wall.
“I’m expecting a very good run from him; the 2700 metres will suit him down to the ground.
“A few starts ago he sat four-wide and still won then last time he ran second to Perfect Stride on a fast last quarter.”
Whittaker’s employer, Nicky Chilcott, also has two runners in tonight and he says they are both good chances.
“Juice Brogden, I think she’s a good chance from the standing start.
“Nicky said she worked really good during the week and the 20 metres won’t be a disadvantage to her.
“And the maiden trotter (Smartly Spoken) has got really good manners so I expect he will get away well and be handy.
“He’s going to be there or thereabouts and that’s half the battle with these maidens.
“If you step well, you’ll probably be in the top 5.”
Whittaker pointed firmly to All Yours as the best chance on the night out of the four horses he is involved with.
“They are really happy with him and tell me his work’s been pretty good, too.”