New trainer misses first win for partnership

Meeska Mooska (Anna Jones) cruising to the finish of the Mico's - Steve's Plumbing & Gas 2100 at Tauranga.

Meeska Mooska (Anna Jones) clear at the finish of the Mico’s – Steve’s Plumbing & Gas 2100 at Tauranga.

The training partnership of Graham Thomas and Nick Smith notched its first win last Saturday with Meeska Mooska, but the latter horseman had to watch the milestone from afar.

Smith, an Englishman who joined into partnership with Thomas a few months ago, celebrated his first training success in New Zealand at Tauranga, but he was at Riccarton doing a favour for fellow Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh.

“I took Seize The Moment down for Stephen,” said Smith. “I’ve ridden work for Stephen for a long time and it was a busy time for him with horses everywhere so he asked me if I could help out.

“I got to see Meeska Mooska’s race on TV at Riccarton. We thought he’d go well and he won it easily.”

Ridden by apprentice Anna Jones, Meeska Mooska was on the pace in the Rating 75 event and led turning for home before kicking clear to score by three and a half lengths from Bachelor Zeel, prepared by Frank Ritchie. The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Lady Kalimara completed the trifecta for the Cambridge centre.

“From our last five starters before this one (Meeska Mooska) we’d had a second and three thirds so we were knocking on the door,” said Thomas, who was on hand to greet Meeska Mooska in the winner’s stall.

A couple of hours after Meeska Mooska’s win Smith came so close to being in the winner’s enclosure with Seize The Moment, who looked to have the Listed $50,000 Christchurch Casino Easter Cup won but was nabbed on the line by Tommy Tucker.

The Thomas – Smith stable had two starters at the Tauranga and was satisfied with the performance of Mangaroa Flo Jo second-up in the Sara Browne-Eves Realty 1600. The talented stayer fought on well for fifth behind Our King Sway over 1600 metres and could be a prospect for the Rotorua Cup.

It was a special couple of days for Smith as last Friday at Dargaville his daughter, Emma, won on the Ryan Simpson-trained Masabio. The promising apprentice is indentured to Murray Baker.

“It was good for Emma as she has now outridden her four kilo claim,” said Smith. “It’s a bit like losing your L plates as a driver.”

Smith Nick1 7374Smith (49) may be new to the training ranks in New Zealand, but he has a lengthy involvement with horses.

“I rode in jumping races back home and I did a short spell of training,” said Smith (pictured). “I started off riding for Michael Dickinson up in North Yorkshire and ended up winning 182 races, though nothing big.”

Smith first came to New Zealand about 14 years ago and spent six months working for Cambridge trainer Tony Pike then returned to England before returning five years ago.

“I worked for Tony (Pike) again and rode work for other trainers, including Graham,” said Smith. “I suppose I’ve ridden work for Graham for three or four years.”

Part of the arrangement to bring Smith into partnership with Thomas was to ease the workload and improve Smith’s profile on the New Zealand scene. Meeska Mooska looks set to help promote Smith’s name in the training ranks.

The five-year-old son of El Hermano has been lightly tried and has recorded three wins and five placings from 15 starts. The first of those wins was over 1200 at Te Teko in June last year and his other success came at Rotorua last December over 1560 metres.

“He was an orphan foal and we’ve just taken our time with him,” said Smith. “We’ve been waiting to get him over ground. You won’t see the best of him until he’s over 2000 metres plus.”

Meeska Mooska has proved Smith and Thomas’ judgement spot on in his last two outings, his first starts beyond 1600. He was a close third over 2000 at Matamata on March 30 and faced 2100 last Saturday.

“He might go to Te Rapa for a Rating 85 2400,” said Thomas. “He’ll have only a couple more then we’ll put him aside. He could be a cups horse next season.”