Astute trainer Moira Murdoch heads to Rotorua this weekend with two horses raced by prominent owners that she’s been able to turn around through her successful beach training operation near Auckland.
Murdoch, who trains with her daughter Kieran, is set to start Sherrif in an open 1400m handicap and Splash Of Red in a Rating 65 event over 1215m, both of which are coming off last-start wins.
Sherrif and Splash Of Red were both trained by Roger James and Robert Wellwood before finding their way to Murdoch for different reasons.
Sherrif, owned by Brendan and Jo Lindsay of Cambridge Stud, made a great impression early on with James and Wellwood. He won five of his first 11 starts, including the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) at his third racecourse appearance, but had soundness issues and required back surgery.
He joined the Murdochs this season and won at his fourth start for them, at Tauranga in an open 1600m handicap on March 20.
“Sherrif had some soundness issues with his back, which is why he came out to train in a straight line,” Murdoch said.
“It was quite a long process to get him back in racing form from that. But it seems very successful and he’s a lovely animal, a very nice horse.”
Sherrif was set to tackle the Group 2 Japan Trophy (1600m) at Tauranga last month but Murdoch decided the heavy track would not suit him. She is hopeful there is not too much rain this week at Rotorua, where the track was rated a Soft5 on Wednesday.
“He won’t be in work much longer due to the weather conditions,” she said. “We’ll just let him lead us wherever he wants to be, how much he’s got left in the tank. He was pretty happy the other day.”
Splash Of Red is raced by Joan Egan, whose band of racehorses includes the Group One winner Concert Hall. She was also transferred to Murdoch at the beginning of the season and had two seconds and a third before breaking her maiden at Pukekohe on March 12.
“I think Joan just wanted Splash Of Red to have a change of environment,” Murdoch said.
“She’s a very honest little filly. She likes Shaun Clotworthy’s apprentice Ace Lawson-Carroll and she runs very kindly for Ace.
Murdoch said Splash Of Red should be ready to run a good race at Rotorua. She is likely to have a few more starts this season before having a spell.
“She probably won’t like the really heavy tracks, but if we get a couple of nice autumn tracks she will probably cope with that. The Reliable Mans tend to be okay with a little bit of cut in the ground,” she said.
“She’ll be a better filly next year when she’s a little bit stronger. She’s quite a fine type of filly.”
Murdoch has had a highly successful career with horses of her own, most notably winning a Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) with Solvit. But she’s also frequently taken on horses that have had some difficulties elsewhere and prepared them at the beach to help rehabilitate them, often for a short period.
Among them has been the Chris Wood-trained Funtonic, who spent time with Murdoch after badly injuring his legs in a paddock accident. Since returning to Wood, he has won twice and looked like a promising sprinter-miler.
“He was out here for ages. That was a very bad injury. That horse has done an incredible job to get back racing so well,” Murdoch said.
“We really enjoy doing a bit of R&R for the other guys, for something that’s got a bit of a problem, or which needs a change of scenery for a short time. There’s generally one or two here all the time, coming and going, and we really enjoy it.
“It’s good to work in with other people and help the horse get a result. We get a lot of pleasure out of watching them go out and win and do well. You really get a buzz out of seeing them attain their potential.”