Trentham retains its magic for McKay

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If every race meeting in New Zealand was at Shaun McKay would probably be thrilled.

McKay, who joined his father Peter in a training partnership this season, earned his first Group race success as a trainer on Saturday when Sagunto won the Group 3 Manawatu Cup (2300m) at Trentham, where the race had been transferred following difficulties with the track.

It's the same venue that McKay won his first Group One race as a jockey, aboard in the 2020 Thorndon Mile (1600m).

The McKay team as a whole has excelled at the Hutt Valley racecourse, which was highlighted on Saturday with a training double as their filly Purrfect Puss had won a three-year-old race earlier in the day.

“It seems like every horse we bring down really likes the track,” McKay said.

“A lot of our sprinters seem to like the straight run down the 1200m chute, but when it comes to our stayers I'm not too sure why they do so well.

“It gives us confidence when we go six hours there to know that they all run well on the track. It would have to be my favourite track.”

McKay still retains his jockey licence, and the only reason Lisa Allpress was aboard Sagunto was that McKay, who rides at 55kg, didn't have any prospect of getting down to his carded weight of 53kg.

2022 Group 3 Manawatu Cup Replay – Sagunto

He is still aiming to ride for a little while yet, though he's looking forward to training being his long-term profession.

“You can't go your whole life riding, and training is the next stage I want to move towards,” McKay said.

“But I still love riding, and lately I have been getting a few rides, which is good. It's something I probably want to do for one or two more .

“If the opportunities are there to get rides in those big races in the next few months that would be great. I'd still like to get another big race win as a jockey.”

McKay was originally apprenticed to his father as a jockey and has been part of the stable team for some time, but he's appreciating the extra responsibility that comes with being a training partner.

“It's a lot different than just getting on and riding them, but it's also been great being with Dad, because he's taught me a lot in the small time I've been training with him,” he said.

“I've learned a lot from him, and eventually when I go on my own, I will be very lucky having had him to teach me.”

Not surprisingly, as the summer racing heats up in New Zealand, it's Trentham that the McKay team is targeting. Sagunto's next start will likely be the Listed Japac Homes (2200m) on January 7.

McKay said the team was confident Sagunto was ready to run a big race in the Manawatu Cup but unsure how he would handle the softening ground, and they hope the track will be better when he returns to Trentham next month.

Purrfect Puss could also be on her way back to Trentham, with the Group 2 (1400m) on January 14 the target.

“She seems to not mind a bit of cut in the track, but she goes well on top of the ground as well,” McKay said.

“She's a very progressive filly and though we're not too sure where she will run next, we'd like to get her to the Wellington Guineas provided she gets through this race alright.”

Also likely to be returning to Trentham next month is . He finished last of 11 in the Group 2 (1400m) on Saturday, but four of his seven victories have come at Trentham and McKay said he just needed a firm track.

“We are looking to get him up to a mile and we hope we can get him in to the Thorndon Mile this year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the McKay stable has nominated three runners to start on their home track on Friday, though the only one of the trio looking certain to get into her race is Strange Love in the 2000m maiden.

“We have a bit of time for her. She's quite a quirky horse and tried to lug in on another horse at her last start, but over 2000m she should go very close,” he said.

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