Day At The Track

May to chase incredible Omakau win

06:00 PM 30 Dec 2020 NZDT
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Ricky May, Harness racing
Ricky May
HRNZ

By Jonny Turner  

Ricky May will return to Omakau to chase down a win like no other in harness racing history on Saturday.

The champion reinsman will be back at the same track he lay lifeless on a year ago to compete in the same race that came so close to being his last.

May has been desperate to get back to Omakau since his return to driving after making a full recovery from the heart problem which saw him collapse during the running of last year’s Central Otago Cup.

With the help of trainer Mark Jones the reinsman will not only get to fulfil that ambition. When he drives Stylish Memphis in the 2021 running of the feature event he has a massive chance of completing a fairytale comeback never seen before in harness racing.

“I was desperate to come back,” May said.

“After last year, I didn’t want to leave things like that.”

“If we are able to win it, it would be pretty special.”

A capacity crowd was left stunned as they watched May’s nearly fatal medical event unfold last year.

Fellow drivers Ellie Barron and Lawrence McCormick rushed to May’s side with Barron performing lifesaving CPR on the reinsman.

On Saturday, May and Barron will drive against each other in races across the Omakau card.

Off duty nurses, doctors and paramedics who leapt the track’s outside fence were quickly at May’s side before emergency services arrived.

The reinsman’s wife Judy eventually met the star reinsman at Dunedin Hospital, where she waited for him to regain consciousness.

On May’s return to Omakau this year, she will be right at his side.

“We are actually going to make a bit of a trip out of it,” May said.

“I said to Judy bugger it, we will take the horses and stay down there.”

“We are going to stay at Cromwell and hopefully it will be a bit of fun.”

Those horses are Fraud and The Terrified, who will line up in maiden events on Saturday.

Mark Jones has the pressure on him to have Stylish Memphis cherry ripe for May’s incredible return to the Central Otago Cup.

Like the hundreds of racegoers that will return to the track after last year, the trainer will be willing his driver on.

“It is good that Rick wants to come back,” Jones said. 

“It is good for him, good for racing and good for everyone.”

Stylish Memphis will need to be good to beat a small but select Central Otago Cup field.

And May will need to show the kind of skill that has won him seven New Zealand Cups.

Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade and Vintage Cheddar will put up stiff competition for his four-year-old.

With two runs under her belt after being freshened after New Zealand Cup Week, Jones thinks he has Stylish Memphis at her peak for what is set to be a momentous occasion.

“It has been pleasing she has been getting nice runs and hitting the line well at the finish,” Jones said.

“That is all that you can ask for and this race has been the aim and hopefully we will have her right on the day.”

Drawing inside both Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade and Vintage Cheddar also gives Jones additional confidence.

“She is probably as tough and fast as anything.”

“She is drawn handy and she has got gate speed so Ricky can do what he wants.”

“She is going to be pretty competitive.”

With a historic win to chase down, May will not be leaving anything to chance.

The reinsman known for his patience and brilliant timing plans to take the Central Otago Cup by the scruff of the neck.

“She has had good runs lately and now she is fit enough that she can have a hard run.”

“She has got great gate speed, so I will be able to fire her up and they can chase us.”

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