Next Up ends combo’s drought

Next Up (Grant Cooksley) on control over Sunny Rose and Ming’s Emperor (rails) over the final stages at Rotorua yesterday.

The successful partnership was finally at it again at Rotorua yesterday when Cambridge trainer Shelley Hale and veteran jockey Grant Cooksley combined with a win by Next Up.

It was Cooksley’s 15th win for Hale, who has a small team in work, and, though it was far inferior to some of the partnership’s more memorable successes, topped by Gr.1 and Gr.2 wins by the brothers Close Up and Seventh Up, it was a boost for all parties.

Hale has gone through a tough time with her team, principally with the retirement of her Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy winner Close Up and constant setbacks for Gr.2 Manco Easter Handicap winner Seventh Up.

She had to settle for two fourths and a fifth from 17 previous race starts by her horses this season until Next Up, the younger brother to Close Up and Seventh Up, turned the luck around yesterday.

It was also a change of fortune for Cooksley, one of New Zealand’s most successful jockeys who gets few raceday opportunities these days.

Cooksley was returning from a suspension (his first for several seasons) when he climbed aboard Next Up for the Campbell Infrastructure 1950 and, like Hale, the win was his first for the season.

Having had to settle for two seconds and four fourths from 28 previous rides this term, Cooksley wasn’t about to be beaten on Next Up and he did the job admirably.

He had been aboard Next Up in his only other win, a maiden 1320m at Avondale last July on a heavy11 track, and had also been placed twice on the son of Shinko King from a total of seven previous mounts.

Next Up had finished among the tailenders in each of his three starts this season, but Cooksley was quietly confident he was ready to go a bold race yesterday and showed it by making the journey from South Auckland to Rotorua for just the one ride.

Stepping up to his biggest test of stamina, Next Up began well for Cooksley in the 1950m event and tracked the pacemaker Ming’s Emperor from the outset.

Cooksley put a bit more pressure on the six-year-old approaching the home turn and early in the run home Next Up was in a three-way battle for control with Ming’s Emperor (on the fence) and Sunny Rose, who was making a run between the pair.

Though Sunny Rose tried hard, Cooksley had the situation in control on Next Up and was only tapping him on the shoulder inside the final 75m to get victory by a long neck, while the Sally House-trained Ming’s Emperor held on for third, three-quarters of a length astern.

“He could have won by more,” Cooksley said.

“He did it quite easily in the end. The sting out of the track (dead6) was perfect for him. He doesn’t need a heavy track.

“He’s not as good as his brothers (Close Up and Seventh Up), but he’s getting better and he’ll win more.”

Hale was naturally thrilled to finally have a change of luck as she headed to greet Next Up and Cooksley in the winner’s stall.

“It’s great to get a win again, ‘’ she said. ‘’He’s bigger and stronger now and I have had confidence at last to run him over ground.

‘’He’s not up to the other two (Close Up and Seventh Up), but I think he can win three or more over ground.

“He’s got his issues, but he’s getting better.’’