Hale keen on two-pronged Easter attack

Seventh Up and Grant Cooksley will be reunited this weekend in a prelude to the Easter Stakes.

Seventh Up and Grant Cooksley (pictured winning at Ellerslie) will be reunited this weekend in a prelude to the Manco Easter Stakes.

Saturday’s racing at Ellerslie should show Cambridge trainer Shelley Hale whether or not she has two Gr.2 Manco Easter Stakes contenders on her hands.

Hale will produce Seventh Up in the Te Akau’s Gingernuts, Trans-Tasman Group One Winner 1200 and Go Nicholas in the Celebrating Chenille 1500 with both gallopers out to prove they are worthy of spot in the Easter Stakes field.

“It’s definitely a race on the radar for them both, but whether they can get there or not, we’ll just see,” said Hale.

A winner of five of his 13 starts, including three of four on heavy tracks, Seventh Up resumes in the 1200-metre open handicap, having not raced since an unplaced outing at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

Hale has had to monitor the Shinko King six-year-old after he jarred up after racing at Riccarton last November.

“The hard track for the Coupland’s Mile took its toll, like it did for a lot of horses,” she said.

“He’s back again and ready to kick off. It’s a handy field and he will take improvement out of the run. He’s first-up on bad ground which won’t be easy, but should go a pretty good race.”

Go Nicholas faces his first test past 1400 metres on Saturday and Hale wants to get a gauge on how the Danroad five-year-old gelding will get the 1600 of the Easter.

“He’s had one go on a heavy track and didn’t go that well but he worked well on a heavy track on Tuesday so we’ll probably chance our arm,” said Hale.

“It’s a shame we are trying to stretch him out over more ground and we’re striking a wet track. But he’s a genuine little horse and he doesn’t know how to go a bad race.”

Apprentice Ryan Elliot rides Go Nicholas, while Grant Cooksley takes the mount on Seventh Up.

Meanwhile, Hale reported that open-class galloper Close Up was getting near to full fitness and would trial next month in preparation for a new campaign.

– NZ Racing Desk.