First Gear caps big week for Grays

Days after Copper Belt Lodge went public with the news that Stephen Gray will return to New Zealand’s training ranks alongside his distinguished father Kevin, the opening race at Trentham on Saturday unveiled an exciting young prospect for the soon-to-resume partnership.

The Kevin Gray-trained First Gear (NZ) (Derryn) was sent out as a $2.10 favourite for the TAB Odds Surge Every Race at Trentham 2YO (1200m), having finished second in both of his previous two starts behind the subsequent stakes winner Domain Ace and the Hong Kong-bound Endued.

Saturday was a breakthrough moment for the talented juvenile, who went straight to the lead under jockey Lisa Allpress and never gave his eight rivals a look in.

First Gear produced a potent kick at the top of the Trentham straight and dashed clear, going on to win by three and a half lengths from the late-finishing Lewin and Pinhook. He clocked 1:11.82 on a testing Heavy9 track that was subsequently downgraded to a Heavy10.

Raced by his breeders Bill and Murray Rose in partnership with Cole Rose and Maddi Daines, the Derryn gelding has now had four starts for a win, two seconds and $18,265 in stakes.

“He’s a nice horse and has a good attitude,” Kevin Gray said. “I trained the mother (A’Guin Ace), so it’s good to get a win with another one from the family. He’s a handy little horse and it was a good win today.

“Bill Rose is a very, very good owner. He’s a farmer up in Waipukurau and a good friend of mine. I’ve got two or three nice horses for him at the moment and it’s always good to get a win for him.

“I think this horse will go to the paddock now. He’s done what I wanted him to do, and I think he could be at least as good as a three-year-old. I’m never in a hurry with horses – most of mine are out in paddocks now and will come back as better horses next season.”

Allpress has been in the saddle for all of First Gear’s starts so far and been impressed with his development.

“He started off quite quirky, but he’s been getting a lot better each start,” she said. “He’s getting bigger and stronger as well and was quite dominant today, so that was nice.

“He’ll make a lovely three-year-old. He’s on the right track and did that so easily today.”

Kevin and Stephen Gray trained over 400 winners together before Stephen Gray relocated to Singapore in 2000, collecting another 825 wins at Kranji. Following the shock news that Singapore’s once-thriving racing industry would come to an end in October with the closure of the Kranji course, Stephen Gray and his family elected to make New Zealand their home again.

“He was in Singapore for almost 25 years, so it’s been a long time away from home,” Kevin Gray said on Saturday. “It’s great to have him back. He’s got good knowledge and is a very good horse-rider himself. If he goes alright, he can push me out! I’ve been doing this for 60 years now.

“He’s ready to go. He’s going to have some really nice horses to train, he’s bought some nice horses, and a lot of my owners are really keen to have him involved.”

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