Riverton trainer Stephen Blair-Edie is hopeful luck will be on his side with in-form galloper The Good Shepherd at Riccarton this weekend.
Blair-Edie travelled from Southland to his Waimate ‘half-way house’ this week in preparation for the first Saturday of the Grand National Festival of Racing at Riccarton Park Racecourse kicking off this weekend.
His leading contender The Good Shepherd has been in red-hot form of late, winning his last two starts at Riccarton and Oamaru convincingly, and is set to start in the Winter Fashions Here 12 August Open Handicap (1200m), however, hoof issues could curtail those plans.
“He’s got a looming stone bruise I’m afraid to say, he was a bit scratchy this morning when we worked him and I’m just praying it’s going to be alright,” Blair-Edie said.
“We went right over him, all his muscles, everything is good, it’s just in the hoof.
“I was talking with his rider and he said ‘he’s too good of a horse to start if he’s not at his best’, so he may be scratched.
“It’s just racing, it’s already happened to some others this winter, but he’s been a real treat this winter and surprised me, I’ve got to look after him.”
Blair-Edie is hopeful for the rest of his stable runners, with Choux In, Choux Macher and Claudius Maximus also running at the feature Riccarton day.
Six-year-old mare Choux In was stakes-placed in the Listed Riverton Cup (2147m) in April and contests the Rugby Test Live On Course Rating 75 (1800m) with visiting Central Districts jockey Kate Hercock aboard.
“She’s as tough as old boots and always gives, Kate got off her the other day and said ‘this is the coolest horse I’ve ridden in a long time’.”
The lightly-raced five-year-old Choux Macher will run in the Gold Club Rating 65 (1200m) and comes off a dashing late finish in the same track conditions (Heavy10) and distance last start at Oamaru.
“He’s drawn out wide tomorrow, that’s not a bad thing because there’s not a lot of corners to go around, the corners have been slowing him down up until now so that’s one element that’s out of the picture,” Blair-Edie said.
“He’s just a big five-year-old who is growing in confidence every race he gets, he’s untapped really and I think he’ll go quite well tomorrow.”
The Southland horseman and farmer has high hopes for home-bred Claudius Maximuss who starts in the Thank You Eric Cormack 25 Years Rating 65 (1600m).
“He’s a big kid, he’s only just turned four and he’s a monster that’s been hard to control and hasn’t been settling but the mile should do him a treat,” Blair-Edie said.
“He’s drawn wide but he’s a horse I think a lot of, once he settles he’s going to be a very good horse.”
The middle day of the carnival poses a new beginning for Blair-Edie, who will race his first runners on the Riccarton Synthetic track including The Tui Toiler, Keep It Loose and Bush Mills Billy.
“I’ve only had The Tui Toiler on the synthetic before, but it’s part of the future of racing now so I’ve realised you have to join in or miss out, especially when there’s good money up on the synthetic,” he said.
A son of Highly Recommended, Blair-Edie said The Tui Toiler had struggled in wet conditions at Oamaru, so he opted to trial him on the Synthetic prior to Wednesday’s meeting.
“I had to do a certifying trial with him on the Synthetic and we couldn’t pull him up, so I thought we’ll give him a go there.”
“He’s been quite a tough horse too, he’s had mixed form because he’s scared of other horses, he doesn’t like them on his inside quarter, but he’s a big horse with a big motor.”