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It’s been a quiet winter for Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins, one of the few commercial training setups left in Auckland’s west.
In fact, before last night’s mile double at Alexandra Park, they hadn’t had a winner since March and had barely had any starters since then.
“It’s been a quiet time since Misty Memory went to America and even now, we are only doing eight,” said Hopkins.
But while their team may be small, it’s full of quality.
Half-brother and sister, Solid Gold and Diamondsrbettor, proved that with dominant front-running wins fresh-up, both in the hands of James Stormont.
For Solid Gold, now five, it was a continuation of a promising career that, to date, has netted seven wins and nearly $90,000.
Of note on Friday night was that Cooney and Hopkins had removed the ‘go-straights’ off him and, now liberated in his gait, he set the track alight with a 55.3 last half.
“He’s always been a really nice animal and over the last 12 months he’s really matured and strengthened up a lot.
“He had been working good heading in to the race and with his gate speed we were pretty confident.”
There is nowhere to hide now, last night’s win taking him to a rating 87 and that means races like the Spring Cup and Holmes D G come on to the radar.
A lack of genuine open class horses in the north means probably only Star Galleria, On The Cards and Mach Shard would be added to last night’s field in coming weeks.
“We’re hopeful that he might be able to measure up in races like that,” said Hopkins.
“I’m not 100 percent sure if we will go in that direction but we will have to give him his chance from the standing start sooner or later.
Year younger half-sister Diamondsrbettor cleared maidens with a five-length demolition in the night’s opening maiden, at what was just her third career start.
“She took a little bit of time to come to it and then got crook as a three-year-old so we pulled the pin and tipped her out.
“Being such a big filly, it was always going to be beneficial for her.
“She’s always shown us that ability and we do have high hopes for her.”
Both horses are out of the Falcon Seelster mare Aquileia, an unraced daughter of imported American mare T A Sportsplex.
Cooney had a lot of success with the latter after importing her in 1998, the Artsplace mare leaving nine winners from 12 foals, numerous selling for good money in the sale ring as yearlings.
Aquileia is one of two T A Sportsplex daughters Cooney is breeding on with, the other being the race-winning Real Desire mare, Diamonds Forever.
Aquileia qualified in 2013 but never raced, owing to injury.
“She had a lot of ability but suffered a paddock injury before we got to race her,” said Hopkins.
“But she’s left us a couple of nice horses to go on with so I guess it all worked out in the end.”