New Zealand trainer Chris Gibbs is looking forward to racing on his home Ruakaka track on Saturday, and not just for the chance to pick up a few wins.
Gibbs has seven runners entered for the card, six of which are in races which earn qualifying points for the five ITM/GIB Northern Region Winter Championships finals back at Ruakaka on July 16.
“It's a great idea, and the fact that it was free nominations has been really helpful,” Gibbs said.
“Also, I really like the fact that no matter what qualifying race you run, over whatever distance, you still get points towards the race you're nominated for.
“Otherwise, for a horse that you want to run in a staying race on the big day, you may want to give them lead-ups over shorter distances, and this points system allows us to do that.”
Saturday's race meeting is the first at Ruakaka for which qualifying points are available, though not everything has gone Gibbs' way beforehand.
“We've had pretty ordinary draws for a few of them. I got the short end of the stick on those, but at least everyone knows there's no local bias.”
“When we get to NZD$60,000 day, if we get good draws then I'll be happy.”
The two Gibbs horses that look the best chances on form are Cakebytheocean and Eve's Song, who both contest the Rating 65 1600m event that ends the day.
Both have wide draws, with Cakebytheocean particularly inconvenienced in barrier 17, though he should come into at least gate 13.
A four-year-old gelding by Ocean Park, Cakebytheocean was very impressive at Avondale last month, winning a 1400m maiden by more than two lengths, and looks a horse with the ability to go further.
“Cakebytheocean has a shocking draw but he's in really good order and we've got Michael McNab on board, which will really help,” Gibbs said.
“He is a horse that any rain would help big-time, he's got that sort of action.
“Eve's Song won two starts back and though her run last time was very ordinary, I'd put a line through it. I'd expect her to reverse her form around on her home track.”
Gibbs' runners for the day begin with Burgundy Dancer, who contests a Rating 65 1600m contest. He finished second two starts ago over 2100m at Ruakaka before a slightly disappointing sixth over the same distance at Pukekohe on May 28.
“He should have won two starts back, when he got held up going over ground. There were no excuses for the next race, but he still got to the line OK.
“The only reason I dropped him back in distance was so he could get in the Rating 65 race. With a 4kg claim (from Maria Sanson) and the inside draw, if he can just pop out of the gates well he'll run a race, that's for sure.”
Gibbs then starts two fillies, Cruisy Lass and Narince, in a three-year-old 1400m event, a Winter Championships qualifying race.
Narince, who is owned by Sir Peter Vela, has had three starts, winning her most recent at Avondale, while Cruisy Lass has won once from eight starts, most recently finishing seventh over 1200m on the same Avondale card.
Gibbs ran Cruisy Lass in the Group 3 Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie on March 5, and though she pulled too hard for her own good in the race, it shows that he has some regard for her ability.
“Cruisy Lass has been freshened up and ran through the line very well at Avondale on a track and distance that didn't really suit. She's aiming for the Three-Year-Old Mile on Winter Championships day,” Gibbs said.
“Narince can overthink things a little bit too much, but she's not out of place and she's drawn well so she deserves her chance to go around. She's got good gate speed and hopefully she'll be one back with cover.”
Two races later, Gibbs lines up Ever So Easy and Diamond Girl in a Rating 74 1100m dash. Both went to Avondale on May 25, but while Ever So Easy ran well for fourth over 1200m, Diamond Girl was scratched at the start after getting her leg over a barrier in the same race.
“Diamond Girl is normally quiet so I don't know what happened there,” Gibbs said.
“She's back at her home track and she runs well here, but she's drawn a bit awkwardly so we'll try to ride her a little quietly.
“Ever So Easy just came to the end of his run first-up last start after being off the scene for quite a while. The speed should be on in that race so we might ride them both quietly.”