Herald on Sunday
Bad start gate shock at Ruakaka
A shambolic start to the third event at Ruakaka, caused by a malfunction of the starting gates, threatened to bring racing to a halt yesterday.
Pressure from several runners saw the barriers burst open prematurely, with the Stephen Marsh-trained runner Darci’s Flight dislodging rider Sam Collett in the melee.
Confusion reigned as some horses continued on in the race while other jockeys heard the warning siren and pulled their mounts up after travelling a few hundred metres.
Collett was not injured and the race was voided.
An inspection of the barriers identified an issue with the start mechanisms which was rectified. The remaining races were run with a manual start to trigger the barriers.
● Progressive 3-year-old Witsabouthim provided the biggest glimpse of his undoubted ability as he came from last on the home corner to convincingly defeat his age group rivals over 1600m at Ruakaka.
The well-bred son of Savabeel made it two wins in a row but gave supporters cause for concern as he tailed the 10-horse field.
Rider Michael McNab didn’t panic as he angled the Tony Pike-trained runner to the outside in the home straight where he produced a sustained finishing burst that carried him to a dominant two-length victory. Pike was thrilled with the win. “He didn’t jump that well as he stood in the gates for quite a long time, but he relaxed beautifully, and when Michael clicked him up, he got to the leaders pretty quickly,” he said.
Pike will now send his charge to the spelling paddock for a short break before getting him ready for a summer campaign.
● A never-say-die attitude saw Coconut upset predictions as he won an action-packed Manawatu Steeplechase (4200m) at Awapuni.
There was sensation early in the race as the disappointingly small field of five was reduced to just four runners when hot favourite ($1.60) Aigne dislodged rider Shaun Fannin after jumping the fourth fence.
Trainer Stephen Nickalls was rapt with the win as he shares in the ownership of Coconut along with his wife Laura and father-in-law, former All Blacks prop Gary Knight.
“That was just fantastic and you just can’t beat this jumping game,” Nickalls said. “He just kept fighting in the run home and wore them all down with his tenacity.”