Junior reinsman Jack Mackinnon will be rewarded for the time he has spent helping trotting maestro Paul Nairn over the past four years, when he takes the reins behind Dr Hook at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
“It is going to be a huge thrill to drive him on raceday as he is a horse I have had plenty to do with,” explained Mackinnon, who started helping Nairn during his trips to Auckland about four years ago.
“I met him through David Branch and things have just spiralled from there,” said Mackinnon. “He really is a pleasure to be involved with and he has taught me a lot,” he added.
Mackinnon has been the caretaker trainer of 13 win trotter Dr Hook since his last start failure at Cambridge on January 10.
“I have been training him on the beach out at Michelle Wallis’s and he is absolutely thriving on it,” enthused Mackinnon. “His work on Tuesday was super and I am expecting a very big run from him.”
Through Mackinnon being a concession Junior Driver, Dr Hook gets a 20 metre let-up in the handicaps, which could just be enough to see the eight-year-old son of Dr Ronerail bounce back to winning form.
“Flying Isa and Sovereignty are the two hardest to beat but they are both of 40 metres, while through the handicapping concession we are only off 20,” explained Mackinnon.
“So all things being equal he should be hard to beat.”
Mackinnon also has two stable representatives competing at Tauranga on Sunday, including stable newcomer Trotupastorm.
“I have been working him on the beach as well and he seems to be really enjoying it,” said Mackinnon.
“He’d have to be an each-way chance if he was on his game.”
Mackinnon’s other runner this weekend is Ruby Castleton and while the ability is definitely there, the manners may not be.
“She is a touch on mad side, but if she was to do things right she would she would take a lot of beating,” confirmed Mackinnon.
Mackinnon has currently driven two winners, but looks a strong chance to add to that tally this weekend, hopefully with his old favourite Dr Hook.
Meanwhile, last season’s Great Northern Derby winner Ohoka Punter is set to resume in the ninth race at Alexandra Park tonight.
“I have been happy with his last two trial wins, so he should be hard to beat,” said Herlihy. “Obviously he will improve with a bit of race fitness, but you have to start somewhere,” he added.
Herlihy originally had Chariots Of Fire aspirations with the hugely talented Bettor’s Delight four-year-old, but after consulting his father-in-law, the legendary Roy Purdon, he may now opt to set him for the local classics.
“Roy said it’s too early to rush him into the ‘Chariots’, and that’s why I we will probably give it a miss.”
Ohoka Punter has drawn well in barrier three for tonight’s $13,000 Auckland Cup Festival C4 to C7 pace, his first race start since finishing third behind Border Control in the Group One Harness Jewels 3yo Final at Ashburton on June 1.
“I’m really happy with everything he has done so far this time in. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won, but then again it wouldn’t surprise me either if blew out a bit in the final stages either,” said Herlihy.
With the Chariots Of Fire most likely off the radar, Ohoka Punter’s main short-term targets will be the Auckland four-year-old features in May – namely the Taylor Mile and New Zealand Messenger.
“After that we will programme his racing from there but there’s always racing for him here during the winter. Long-term there’s the Jewels and then hopefully at the end of the year, the New Zealand Cup,” Herlihy said.
By Mitchell Robertson