Friends toast Gin’s win

Shaun McKay guiding The Gin Keeper to victory at Te Aroha yesterday. (Photo: Kenton Wright, Race Images)

Shaun McKay and The Gin Keeper winning at Te Aroha yesterday. (Photo: Kenton Wright, Race Images)

In-form Matamata apprentice Shaun McKay got a special thrill from the win on Cambridge five-year-old The Gin Keeper at Te Aroha yesterday.

The win in the Phelan Racing Stables 1300 was the first for the combination of McKay and Cambridge trainer Margaret Falconer.

“It’s good to ride a winner for one of Mum and Dad’s friends,” said McKay, son of Peter and Kim McKay. “Margaret has been giving me a few rides and I wanted to win for her.”

The friendship goes back to the days when Falconer was training in Matamata and both stables were battling for recognition.

McKay rode The Gin Keeper for the first time when third at Tauranga on July 15 and the performance that day suggested a win was close at hand. But McKay admits he was worried halfway down the home straight yesterday.

“When that other was coming at us wide out I was a bit worried the ground out there might be a bit better, but then my horse kicked again and won well in the end,” said McKay.

The Gin Keeper had been very lightly tried for a five-year-old, having had just five starts.

“He’s just been too weak,” said Falconer. “He’s needed time.”

The Gin Keeper has the bloodlines to make a good winter galloper, being a half-brother to Baltaine and Betcha Wood.

Baltaine won 13 races, including the 2007 Foxbridge Plate, and over $320,000 in prize money, while Betcha Wood’s eight wins included the Listed Wanganui Stakes and the Interprovincial at New Plymouth.

The Gin Keeper was the first of two Cambridge winners at the Te Aroha meeting. In the next, and final, event Bee Tee Junior prevailed for trainer Shaune Ritchie.

“I can’t remember my last winner of a heavy track like this,” said Ritchie. “I don’t have many winter horses going around.”

Bee Tee Junior, a four-year-old son of Nom du Jeu, has won twice from four starts with his other win also being at Te Aroha, though on a dead track last March.