By NZ Racing Desk
New Zealand: Thoroughbred horse racing returned in New Zealand on Saturday after a coronavirus-induced hiatus of 84 days with an 11-race programme at Pukekohe Park.
While punters were no doubt itching to get involved, few would have been smiling after race one, the Dunstan Return To Racing (800m), with four-year-old mare Keep It Real landing a last-stride victory at odds of 44-1 to deny the favourite Divine Dive by the barest of margins.
Prepared locally by Pukekohe trainers Matthew Rogers and sons Matthew and Michael, Keep It Real was well-ridden by apprentice Ashvin Goindasamy, coming from worse than midfield.
“I actually thought she had a good chance,” Michael Rogers said. “She had a jump-out here at Pukekohe a couple of weeks ago and she stumbled out of the gates but she ran on quite nicely.
“She had done a bit of work and had always shown a little bit of speed and just got run down through weakness.
“She has always jumped well and sat handy and been run down in the last 100m. Over the shorter distance there is more speed on, so she was able to get back a bit and run on. The 800m suits her too.”
Rogers indicated the mare would be back at the races within the next month to take advantage of some of the shortened distances, with an 880m race at Ellerslie on July 11 or another 800m race at Pukekohe on July 25 possible targets.
Rogers was full of praise for the ride of Mauritian jockey Goindasamy. “The owner was quite keen to have him on and we were keen to claim because she is not a big mare,” Rogers said.
Rogers said there was a buoyant atmosphere at Pukekohe as racing made a welcome return, albeit on a Heavy11 surface. “There are quite a few people here and it’s good to see some smiling faces and everyone is happy and keen to be back,” he said.
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• Visit the Mauritius Turf Club website