Day At The Track

Robbie Close excited – huge understatement

10:22 AM 11 Nov 2013 NZDT
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Robbie close1.jpg
Robbie Close - Has landed the drive on Jason Rulz in the NZ Cup

Robbie Close is going to have an early night on Monday. Well at least that’s the advice he’s been given anyway.

“I don’t know how much sleep I’ll get. I never expected this to happen so soon in my career, but people have told me to get a good night's sleep. Saying I’m excited is a huge understatement,” Close said.

The 21-year-old will have his first Group One drive behind the Greg and Nina Hope trained Jason Rulz in Tuesday’s 110th edition of the Group One $650,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup.

Not a bad achievement considering he’s only been driving three and a bit seasons.

“I just want to thank Greg and Nina and the owners Greg, Jason (Yang) and Richard (Dellaca). This will be the thrill of my life. It’s something I always dreamed of,” Rangiora-based Close said.

He also wanted to pay a tribute to 'Cups King' Ricky May who had not only taught him a great deal about being a reinsman, but had also watched and encouraged Close’s career.

“I think Ricky put the word in for me. I thought I might have been an outside chance to drive in the big race. Ricky usually drives Jason Rulz but his commitment to Terror To Love, gave me the drive.

“I was hoping I would get asked to drive him but I didn’t want to get too excited just in case it didn’t happen. I’m still buzzing - it hasn’t really sunk in.

“This is the race every driver dreams of competing in,” Close said.

Close said he wanted to give junior driving a real crack this season. He said his Cup drive had already ensured 2013 would be a year he would never forget.

“It helps when drivers like Ricky May give you sound advice. I like to ask him questions because I like to learn from the best. He has changed my driving,” said Close.

Close has so far recorded 44 wins from 593 drives since 2011. He has also placed 105 times for $316,222 in purses. He is currently situated in eighth place on the junior driving premiership with three wins. Last year he finished sixth with his 22 wins.

Jason Rulz is paying $41 to win the Cup. Close believed he could figure in the photo finish.

“If he’s anywhere near them swinging for home he has the sprint to win. Every time Greg and Nina have spelled him he’s come back bigger and stronger. I like the horse, Close said.

Close shifted from South Auckland to Canterbury four years ago from his home town of Waiuku.

He worked for Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett in Waiuku and had a short stint with Barry Purdon before transferring south and taking up a position with Robbie Holmes at Amberley for three years.

Close has been with Greg and Nina Hope since just prior to last Christmas.

Jason Rulz will be one of two drives for Close on his first premier race-day. He will also steer the Hope trained Reklaw Supreme 40 minutes before the Cup. Jason Rulz has raced 32 times for 12 wins, 10 placings and he has won $164,008.

He has won two of his three starts over the 3200m standing start journey. Stablemate, Highview Tommy, who is paying $81, will again be driven by Blair Orange.

By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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