Ruakaka trainer Kenny Rae has always been partial to a trip to the South Island. The northern horseman, who trains in partnership with his daughter Krystal Williams-Tuhoro, has been venturing south for more than a dozen years, principally with runners around New Zealand Cup week and in support of summer racing on the West Coast.
But 2020 has forced all manner of businesses to be flexible and Rae was quick to take a leaf out of the Prime Minister’s book, going hard and going early to Christchurch this year, when COVID-19 restrictions in and around Auckland proved a significant inconvenience for northern conditioners, in addition to the lack of the usual volume of race meetings scheduled on his home track.
“It’s been quite a challenge,” Rae said from Christchurch. “I went home for four days not long ago but that has been about it since the Winter Cup (Group 3, 1600m on August 15). We have got 18 horses at Riccarton and 15 at home. I am an honourary South Islander.
“I do it every year, usually around the New Zealand Cup meeting and then Christmas time. “Lisa and I started off heading south around the West Coast 12 or 14 years ago as a working holiday and we have been back every year since.”
Thankfully the sacrifice of being away from home and family is being counter-balanced by success on the track. Since August, Rae and Williams-Tuhoro have won nine races and placed in a further nine races from 45 starters down South.
Although Major Tom’s Winter Cup triumph has been the highlight to date, the stable unearthed a very promising two-year-old winner in Follow Your Dreams at Riccarton last weekend, while three-year-old Zoltan scored in the Inglewood Stud Guineas Trial (1400m) and has firmed into an $18 prospect for the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai 48th New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) on November 7.
Offers had come for Contributer colt Follow Your Dreams after winning two trials prior to his victory on debut, but connections have rejected them to date and the plan is to push on to the Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m) at Riccarton on November 14. “I think he is a very smart horse,” Rae said. “Just his attitude, his temperament, his physique, he ticks every single box. “I read somewhere that Chris Waller said a horse has got to have a good attitude and good speed. He has got every bit of it. “He came through Saturday’s run in great order and there is no shin soreness and no jarring or anything.”
Bred by Valachi Downs principal Kevin Hickman, Follow Your Dreams is the first foal of O’Reilly mare Dare To Dream and was purchased for $24,000 at the Book 2 Yearling Sale at Karaka earlier this year. “I had two out of his family and one went to Hong Kong and one went to Singapore. That’s what made me look at buying him,” Rae said. “When I looked at him, I had a horse called Upsala for Lars Pearson a few years back, and he was a lovely two-year-old and this fella was a clone physically. “He was my favourite horse at the sale and I had to have him.”
Zoltan won his second race since venturing to Christchurch and will likely head to the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes 3YO (1400m) at Ashburton on Sunday week before a tilt at the Guineas.
Rae elected to take a conservative approach, scratching Major Tom from the North Canterbury Cup (1800m) last weekend when the Riccarton track came up a Good3. “He has won on a Good3 at Ellerslie but he wouldn’t last running on it,” Rae said. “I am trying to change things and I will train him a wee bit like the Europeans and give him one more start before the New Zealand Cup (Group 3, 3200m) in a 2200m race at Ashburton. “The logical race would have been the Metropolitan Trophy (Listed, 2500m) but it is a week before the Cup and if it is a hard track, it would be a challenge to back up and run well.”
Meanwhile, veteran galloper Kaharau will be thoroughly vetted this week after finishing last in the North Canterbury Cup. “If he is not right he will be retired,” Rae said. “He has won a hurdle trial and he has turned his form around before, so it is not the end of the world just yet, but he is closer to retirement than what he was last year.”