Durable galloper Close Up continued the winning roll of Cambridge conditioner Shelley Hale when he captured the feature sprint at New Plymouth on Saturday in his first start in a new campaign.
Veteran rider Grant Cooksley trekked south to take the mount on Close Up and produced a gem of a ride as he sat the seven-year-old Shinko King gelding in behind the speed before producing a well-timed run in the home straight to score a comfortable one length victory in the Kiwi Butcher Open 1200.
Currently preparing for a trip to Brisbane with stable star Seventh Up, the younger brother of Close Up, Hale was confident of good performance from her charge after a recent trial at Ellerslie that topped off the preparation for his campaign opener.
"His trial was very good and so was his work although I did think he still might need the run today," she said.
"Usually on the wetter tracks they need to get one under their belt so I was just keen to get his campaign underway. He ended up having a decent blow after the race and there looks to be plenty of improvement in him so the win is a welcome bonus."
Hale has always believed in the ability of her charge although he has had limited chances to show his class due to issues racing on the firm summer tracks.
"He just can't handle those really hard tracks as he tends to jar up badly," she explained.
"We've known all along he could gallop but he's been restricted to being a winter horse because of his feet. He is lightly raced and has come up extremely well this time in so I'm hopeful he has a big winter ahead of him."
Hale will now turn her attention to recent Gr. 2 Manco Easter Stakes winner Seventh Up who will continue his preparation for his Brisbane campaign at Te Rapa next weekend in an open 1400m contest.