Seventh Up on track for Group Two goal

Seventh Up (Grant Cooksley) getting the better of City Boy in the final stages at Pukekohe yesterday.

Seventh Up (Grant Cooksley) getting the better of City Boy (inner) in the final stages at Pukekohe yesterday.

Seventh Up proved a rising star in the northern ranks when taking a positive step towards a long-range Group Two goal with his fresh-up win at Pukekohe yesterday.

Having his first start since winning at Tauranga last March, Seventh Up scored a narrow but convincing win in the NRM 1200 to impressive not only punters but also rider Grant Cooksley.

“He’s come back nice,” said Cooksley, whose five rides on the son of Shinko King have resulted in two wins and three placings.

Cooksley had made a special trip to the Cambridge trials earlier this month to ride Seventh Up in an open 935-metre heat and on the strength of his quiet second placing behind Chachar he knew the six-year-old would be hard to beat yesterday.

Cambridge trainer Shelley Hale has bided her time with Seventh Up and, though pleased with his build-up toward yesterday’s race, she was a bit concerned on raceday.

“He’s behaving like he’s a bit fresh and the heavy track is a bit of a concern,” Hale said in a pre-race interview.

Hale knew she had the rider aboard to look after Seventh Up and Cooksley gave him as soft a run as possible.

Allowing Seventh Up to find his feet, Cooksley had him travelling well in sixth spot on the inner for much of the journey and poised to challenge in the run home.

Seventh Up ranged up with 250 metres to run and when City Boy kicked again in front Cooksley gave him a few reminders with the whip to keep his mind on the job.

Though the winning margin was a mere long head, Cooksley knew he had a bit up his sleeve and Seventh Up just did enough to succeed.

“I’m proud of him,” said Hale after the race. “I thought second was his lot but he lifted again.”

Seventh Up is nominated for the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile at Riccarton next month, but the main long range mission for him is the Gr. 2 $100,000 Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie on January 1.

Hale will now have to decide what path to take with Seventh Up and will no doubt be helped by the input of Cooksley.