By Jonny Turner, NZ Harness News Desk
Trainer Brett Gray’s team look ready to make an impact on Southland’s harness racing return at Ascot Park on Saturday, if they can overcome a run of tricky draws.
New Zealand’s racing landscape and the wider world may never be the same since the Covid19 pandemic hit, but for Gray some things have stayed same.
When several of the Ryal Bush trainer’s horses drew awkward spots on the inside and the outside of the second row it was hardly a surprise.
“It is the story of my life, really” Gray quipped.
On a more serious note, Gray said he was just happy his team could resume racing again.
“It’s great to be back going again, I am really looking forward to it.”
Honour Before Glory is one of several horses across the country that have emerged looking refreshed and revitalised from the national lockdown.
The 4yr-old looked ready to put a patchy run of form behind her when winning nicely at last week’s Ascot Park trials.
“She has just taken a wee bit to come around, but I think the lockdown has done her good,” Gray said.
“If she goes like she does at the trials the other day she would be a great chance.”
In The Groove will be the first of Gray’s horses to step out on Saturday when he resumes in race 3.
The 3yr-old will be out to turn the tables on race rival, Madrik, who had his measure when the pair filled the quinella at last week’s trials.
“He is a pretty nice horse Madrik, so it was no disgrace running second to him.”
“My fella did need that run and he has improved from it.”
“But, we might be running for second behind Madrik.”
Gray has a two pronged attack on Saturday’s feature trot, race 10, with Richard The Third and Full Noise.
Neither horse has trialled publicly ahead of their resumption, which is of no concern to the trainer.
“It’s not a worry at all really, we have taken them in to the track for runs and some of them have been better than having a trial, really,” Gray said.
Richard The Third will start from the front line in the 2200m event, 25m in front of his stablemate.
“Richard The Third has been coming up really nice and so has Full Noise.”
“But, for Full Noise a 25m handicap over 2200m can be very tough.”
Rydgemont Son looks the horse to beat in race 10 following his impressive trial win at Oamaru, last weekend.
Stratofortress and Hazer’s starting spots for race 7 sum up Gray’s run with draws at Ascot Park on Saturday.
Stratofartress starts from barrier one on the second row, with Hazer on the extreme outside in barrier 14.
American Eyretime also starts from barrier 1 on the second line in race 8.
“There are some nice maidens in that race, but if she were to get a suck along in the trail or three back she would be a chance,” Gray said.
“She is a not the worst in there, the draw could work out good or really bad.”
Nota Bene Denario completes Gray’s day in race 11.
The 5yr-old has been brilliantly consistent this season and looks set to continue that.
Like so many of his runners, Gray has concerns about where the horse, who is best driven for one late run, may settle from barrier 7.
“He always goes an honest race, but he is drawn a little bit wide, he usually likes to be on the rails.”