Former top jockey Grant Cooksley is hoping to help maintain the recent strike rate of his apprentice, Masa Hashizume, at Avondale on Wednesday and also kick a $500,000 yearling purchase off on a winning note.
Hashizume has notched three wins from his last seven rides and will be aboard stable representative and last-start winner Here Comes Faffy in the Westbrook Wines 1400, while Cooksley and his training partner, Bruce Wallace, will also line up two other runners on the day and both also demand respect.
The first of those hopefuls is Super Swish, who will be ridden by Leith Innes in the New Zealand Bloodstock Pearl Series 1400m, and the Swiss Ace four-year-old mare will be looking to go one better after a debut second over 1200m at Ruakaka earlier this month. “She’s improved since her first start, but has not got the best draw (10),” Cooksley said. “I’m just a bit worried the track may be a little too hard for her.”
In the following race, the Tulloch Café 1200m, the stable focus will be on debutant Dragon Run, who was bought for $500,000 from Book 1 of the 2018 National Yearling Sales at Karaka. A three-year-old son of More Than Ready, Dragon Run is a half-brother to the Group 2 Concorde Handicap (1200m) winner Ego and has shown promise for his Hong Kong-based owners, Able International Ltd, after a setback last year. “He had a wind operation, but seems to have come through it well,” Cooksley said.
Dragon Run has made just one public appearance and that was at the Avondale trials last month when winning over 800m in the hands of Hashizume, who will be stepping aside for Vinnie Colgan on Wednesday. “He has shown ability and won nicely at the trials,” Cooksley said. “He’s got the inside draw and it’ll all depend on how good he jumps out. It’s going to be interesting.”
The last runner on the day for Cooksley and Wallace is Here Comes Faffy, a Sufficient four-year-old gelding who picked up four placings in his first seven starts before gaining his deserved win at Ruakaka when going straight to the front and leading his rivals a merry chase. “He tries his heart out and he’s probably the best of our three chances because he’s got experience on his side,” Cooksley said.
Here Comes Faffy is the first of two rides at Avondale for Hashizume, his other mount being the Margaret Falconer-trained Holy Loch in the final event. Hashizume made the most of his Trentham debut last Saturday when successful on Owen Patrick for Timaru trainers Terrill Charles and Peter Corbett and his other mount on the day was aboard stablemate King Of The Stars when finishing eighth in the Group 3 Wellington Cup (3200m).
The following day the 24-year-old was in the winner’s enclosure again when successful on the Shelley Hale-trained Vedo Rosso to take his tally for the season to 16 wins from 88 rides, a creditable tally after spending two months on the sideline following an injury he suffered in a fall at Ruakaka on October 2. “He was going well before he had the fall and it took him a bit of time to pick up again after he came back,” Cooksley said. “He’s a good young rider and listens and tries to do his best. He’ll keep on getting better.”
Since returning from injury, Hashizume’s wins have included a well-judged front-running display at Ellerslie on January 12 aboard leading stable representative Gino Severini, who is a nominee for the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa next month.
Gino Severini started his career in Ireland, where he was a winner, and was then tried unsuccessfully three times in Hong Kong before arriving in New Zealand and joining the Cooksley – Wallace stable with his 10 New Zealand starts resulting in three wins and five placings. “He will probably run on Friday at Te Aroha in the open 1600m and maybe then go for the Herbie Dyke,” Cooksley said. “He would have to win to run at Te Rapa. The other option is to go to Otaki for the Group 1 (the Haunui Farm WFA Classic, 1600m) later next month.”