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 New Zealand Gallops News 
Wednesday, May 10 2017

Shelley Hale's immediate focus is on Saturday's Taranaki meeting, but she has a much greater goal on the horizon.

Seventh Up and Grant Cooksley (yellow and green silks) race to victory in the Gr.2 Easter Stakes at Ellerslie  - Trish Dunell

The Cambridge trainer will travel south with Close Up for the Kiwi Butcher Open at New Plymouth and, though she expects the seven-year-old to run an improver's race, she is getting more excited with Close Up's stablemate and brother Seventh Up.

Under a superb ride from Grant Cooksley, Seventh Up provided Hale with a career highlight when he flew home to win the Gr.2 Manco Easter Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie last month, running the fastest sectionals of the day.

It was Seventh Up's seventh win from 16 starts and left Hale pondering what to do next with the highly talented six-year-old. But a discussion with Cooksley has confirmed plans.

"He'll probably run at Te Rapa on Saturday week in an open 1400 metres, then we'll look at Brisbane," Hale said. "There's a plane out on the following Friday direct to Brisbane so he could be on that and we'll try and get into the Stradbroke.

"I know it's a big step, but Cookie is confident it's worth having a go. Cookie has been there and done it so you've got to listen to him.

"The nice thing is we've got the money in the bank after the Easter."

The Gr.1 $A1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap is at Eagle Farm on June 10 and Hale has a couple of options with Seventh Up.

"If it looks like he'll get a run in the Stradbroke after Te Rapa he'll go straight into it, but if not there's a race a week before the Stradbroke that he could run in," Hale said.

Cooksley is obviously keen to stick with Seventh Up and his decision to head south to ride Close Up this weekend has buoyed Hale's confidence.

It will be one of Cooksley's rare trips to Taranaki, where his highly successful career began, and he will also ride two members of Stephen McKee's team (O'Marina and Olympic), as well as Waipipi Lad for Jon Miller.

Cooksley has ridden Close Up in his last two starts, for a win at Tauranga last October and a fifth at Te Rapa in November. He was also aboard him at last week's Ellerslie trials when third over 900 metres.

"Cookie gave him a nice, soft trial," Hale said. "He sat on him and the horse was never off the bridle."

Hale is pleased with Close Up's lead-up work, but wary of his chances fresh-up.

"He'll probably need the run," she said. "When he started off last time he needed it.

"After this there are a couple of nice 1200 and 1400-metre races for him. Obviously there's the Opunake Cup to consider and if he's going well we could look at the Foxbridge Plate."

Posted by: Racing Desk AT 07:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email