New Zealand news briefs

Innes trio primed for Hastings

Opaki trainer Gerald Innes heads to Hastings on Saturday where he will line-up a trio of runners.

His charge will be led by in-form five-year-old Cross Roads, who has won two of his last four starts, placing in his other two outings.

Innes was pleased with his win over 2200m at Hastings last weekend in rating74 grade, and he believes the gelding will handle the step-up to open grade when he contests the Bayleys Feilding 2200 on Saturday.

“He has come through the weekend really well, I couldn’t be more pleased with him,” Innes said.

“He is adept to soft tracks so we will keep him going while he is in form. He has thrived since Saturday.”

Cross Roads is equal topweight with Charlie Horse this weekend, with the pair set to carry 60kg, and Innes has booked Jonathan Parkes to ride the gelding.

“Before nominations I thought he would get in on the minimum and I would put young Ashvin Mudhoo on, who is riding the other two (of my horses on Saturday),” Innes said.

“He is top weight and Jonathan (Parkes) has always loved the horse, so I wouldn’t leave him sitting in the stands. 

“With Parkesy being a heavyweight rider there is not a lot of dead weight he is carrying anyway.

“Charlie Horse has also got 60 kilos as well.

“Not being rude to the rest in the race, but I think they are a step above the others.”

While Cross Roads has been up for a long time this preparation, Innes said he may give the gelding one more start before he heads for a well-deserved break.

“Last Saturday was his seventh run this time in since March, we may give him one more start and then put him aside for the summer,” Innes said.

“He is not a big, robust individual yet, he is still only an immature five-year-old. This time next year I think we will have some bigger plans instore for him.”

Innes is also looking forward to lining up Sailor Jack in the Rayner Building/BJW Motors LTD Stayers (2200m). 

Innes admitted Sailor Jack was on his final warning last start at Otaki, but he surprised his trainer when winning his maiden at his 10th attempt.

“It took me a bit by surprise,” Innes said. “He is a big, dopey bugger and had never shown a lot on raceday. 

“Dylan (Turner, jockey) said he was quite impressive and once the penny drops he is going to be a good horse.

“I mentioned at Otaki to Dylan that if he can’t be in the money today I will give him away for a jumper. But that is what they do these horses, they take you by surprise all the time.

“It will be interesting to see if he can run a really good race because up until now I have been really disappointed with him.”

Innes’ trio of runners on Saturday will be rounded out by Tui Rocks who will line-up in the J & J Walters LTD 3YO (1650m).

“I am very happy with how she has come up,” Innes said. 

“She had been disappointing form-wise but she had to do a bit from her draw last time, she drew the outside, and got in a bit of a speed tussle. She battled on well and pulled up well, she wouldn’t have blown a matchstick out.

“It gave me the impression that if she could run over a mile and get things her own way in front, she will get a trip like that.” 

Ashburton age-group feature a treat for Chokito

Talented South Canterbury mare Chokito could reignite Gr.3 Winning Edge Presentations Winter Cup (1600m) aspirations with a winning turn at Ashburton on Thursday.

Timaru trainer Warwick Coles had ruled out a shot at the Riccarton feature on August 6 when a tying up issue hindered his efforts to get Vespa four-year-old Chokito up to 1600m earlier in her preparation.

But having remedied that problem and with a bold last-start second at Riccarton over 1200m under her belt, Chokito will tackle the Norm & Leanne Stewart 1600 at Ashburton, a race that could yet unlock the path to Riccarton.

"We got two wins on the board early in the preparation and then she got tying up issues. Every time we got her fit to get her up to a mile, she tied up," Coles said.

"We haven't had any issues over the last six weeks so we think we're on top of it. We changed her feed and got some medication that actually suited her. We'd tried about five or six different things then finally found one that worked.

"We missed a couple of nice races I wanted to run in because of it but hopefully she'll keep. I had hoped to have a crack at the Winter Cup but we lost our momentum so that's why we weren't going to get there.

"The Winter Cup is probably off the table, unless we go super tomorrow. We'd have to pay a late entry fee of course but we'll just assess what she does tomorrow and see. There's always next year."

A winner of last year's Listed Southland Guineas (1600m) at Invercargill, Chokito steps up to 1600m for the first time this preparation in the set weight three- and four-year-old race in which she will carry just 53.5kg with Sanu Toolooa's apprentice allowance.

A winner of six of her 17 starts and placed in a further seven, Chokito has tackled open handicap company in each of her last six starts, winning open sprints at Gore and Riccarton earlier in her preparation.

"I've been really happy with her over the last few weeks. She's racing well. We were going to go to the 1400m open race but after talking to the handicapper, he gave me confidence that I was better off in the 1600m race," said Coles, who combines training with beef farming at Hanging Rock, near Pleasant Point.

"If we won the open handicap we'd probably end up closer to 90 rating points and lugging big weights which is what I've been trying to avoid, but we wouldn't be so harshly penalised if we won the three- and four-year-old race so that's a good bonus.

"It should suit her down to the ground. She hasn't raced at Ashburton but she's won a couple of trials there. It's not going to be a walk in the park though. 

"Wild Rover of the Pitmans goes pretty good and he's got the top jock (Michael McNab) on and Sea Shepherd is a handy horse. But we're happy with her and we'll give it our best shot anyway."

Safely through Thursday's race, Coles will aim Chokito at Oamaru on July 24, guided by her performance as to whether she tackles the Oamaru Cup (1600m) or the 1200m open handicap.

"She'a a versatile mare and can go on any tracks and up to 1600m. This will answer a lot of questions about the 1600m for us. She got the mile in the Southland Guineas but that's a leader's track down there so horses can run out the distance down there better than they can at other tracks. This will tell us a lot tomorrow."