Day At The Track

The long drive for Rory McIlroy and Fleming

08:53 AM 14 Oct 2016 NZDT
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Rory and Willie
Photo - Bee Pears

Willie Fleming doesn’t mind driving the 20 hours and 1,600km in seven days just for Rory McIlroy.

That’s the round-trip twice from his Hawera base to Alexandra Park. He and his 3-year-old colt did it last week and won the $12,000 Mitavite Maiden and they are want to repeat the doseagain tonight (Friday).

But the 60-year-old retired dairy farmer knows only too well how tough Rory McIlroy’s assignment is at Alexandra Park this evening.

“I wouldn’t take him all that way if I didn’t think he was good enough to be competitive. I’d like to then take him to Christchurch and take on the big guns. I know there’s some powerful stables out there but you get nowhere running scared,” Fleming said.

Rory McIlroy will be looking to win his second race in six life-time starts when he linesup from gate seven in the night’s richest race at Alexandra Park – the $22,000 NRM 3yo Sires Stakes fourth heat.

David Butcher steered him to a sedate, but gutsy 2:47.3 victory (mile rate 2:02.3) last Friday. Scott Phelan is the replacement driver tonight.

Butcher will get behind the likely race favourite Vasari, who is resuming from his last start ninth in the 2yo harness Jewels Final on ninth at Alexandra Park on July 1.

Rory McIlroy was the $24.50 sixth favourite last week and got there by a head from one on the second row.

“He’s a nice horse and is potentially the best I have owned, bred and trained. I would love to line a horse up in a Sires Stakes Final again,” Fleming said.

Fleming lined up Matai Man (Gene Robb) in Auckland Reactor’s Sires Stakes Final in 2007. They finished 10th.

“He was the nicest horse I’ve raced. He had five winsand won more than $50,000, but this fella could potentially be the best if he is allowed to reach his potential,” said Fleming.

I’ve always liked ‘Rory’ since day one. We were always going to hang on to him simply because we love racing. The clever thing would probably have been to accept the offers and sell, but it’s going to take another five years to get a good 3-year-old and even then who knows what we will get,” Fleming said.

“It’s not easy training horses down this way but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the price you pay for wanting to live in ‘the Naki’ - New Zealand’s top province,” he added.

Fleming bred Rory McIlroy with his wife Brenda and son-in-law Kieran More. They also own the colt with Fleming’s Wanganui mate, Michael Donoghue.

Vasari aside, last start winner and Sires Stakes bound 3-year-old Star Galleria will be the toughest to beat in tonight’s 1700m feature pace.

The Steven Reid and Simon McMullan trained son of Art Major will be vying for his third win in four starts. Throw in the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) factor and you have a horse that could win his second straight Sires Stakes heat.

Star Galleria and Herlihy won the first heat at Cambridge Raceway from barrier three over tonight’s distance in 2:04.6 (mile rate 1:57.9).

They beat most of tonight’s opposition that night and it looks as though only the eight draw can stop them again.

“He’s always been a very nice horse but to have Tony on him was a real bonus. He seldom drives at Cambridge on Thursdays these days and he didn’t hesitate to get in his car and come down and drive him last start. I think this fella might be a little bit better than I originally thought,” Reid said.

“I am very happy about heading to Cup day again. He’s the only horse of that quality in our barn,” he added.

Star Galleria was a loose $7 Sires Stakes Final favourite after he won at Cambridge last start. he’s now at $12.


Duane Ranger

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