By Dave Di Somma – Harness News Desk
The joy of winning his 50th race for the season was written all over Robbie Close’s face.
“It was pretty incredible really, getting to 50 is not easy”, he said.
After driving Jenabella ($11.40 and $3.10) to victory in race 3 at Addington on Sunday Close celebrated the achievement by poking his tongue out in the direction of Blair Orange who’d run second with Pembrook Tilly.
It’s his version of the Pukana that is the trademark of both Blackcap Ross Taylor and jockey Michael Walker.
“I only do that in some races, the ones I’m happy to win on.”
The win is the latest milestone in a season that his best yet, despite the two month break because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Previously his best was the 42-win season he had in 2015. That was the year he was New Zealand’s Champion Junior Driver, and won the Australasian Young Drivers Championship as well.
Career wise Close – or “The Goose” as he’s nicknamed – has won 277 races from 2976 drives for a UDR of .1728 though his strike rate this season has been .2252.
Two horses stand out in the 50 victories, Ariella’s win in the Caduceus Club of Southland/Alabar two-year-old Fillies Classic at Ascot Raceway on March 7 and Splash Cola beating the likes of Marcoola, Enhance Your Calm and Pres the Belle at Addington on February 28 for his employer and good mate Regan Todd.
In both races Close was snookered three back on the fence, and both won at double figure odds (Ariella $19.40 and $6.10) and Splash Cola ($16.60 and $3.90).
“Next season I just want to do the same – just keep the winners ticking over.”
Though he does have one more specific target.
“I’d really like to win a Group One.”
He isn’t fussy – any Group 1 will do – and we all know how he’d celebrate that.