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Trainer Brett Gray’s team looks ready to make an impact on the return of Southland harness racing return at Ascot Park tomorrow, if it can overcome a run of tricky draws.
New Zealand’s racing landscape and the wider world may have changed dramatically since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but for Gray some things have stayed the same.
When several of the Ryal Bush trainer’s horses drew awkward spots it was hardly a surprise.
"It is the story of my life, really," Gray quipped.
On a more serious note, Gray said he was just happy his team could resume racing.
"It’s great to be back going again. I am really looking forward to it."
Honour Before Glory will be refreshed and revitalised after her enforced spell. The 4yr-old looked won nicely at last week’s Ascot Park trials.
"She has just taken a wee bit to come around, but I think the lockdown has done her good," Gray said.
"If she goes like she does at the trials the other day she would be a great chance."
In The Groove will be the first of Gray’s horses to step out, in race 3.
The 3yr-old will be out to turn the tables on Madrik, who had his measure when the pair filled the quinella at last week’s trials.
"He is a pretty nice horse, Madrik, so it was no disgrace running second to him."
"My fella did need that run and he has improved from it.’’
Gray has two in the feature trot, race 10, Richard The Third and Full Noise.
Neither horse has trialled.
"It’s not a worry at all, really. We have taken them in to the track for runs and some of them have been better than having a trial, really."
Richard The Third will start from the front line in the 2200m race, 25m in front of his stablemate.
"Richard The Third has been coming up really nice and so has Full Noise."
"But, for Full Noise a 25m handicap over 2200m can be very tough."
Rydgemont Son looks the horse to beat in race 10 following his impressive trial win at Oamaru last weekend.
Stratofortress and Hazer’s starting spots for race 7 sum up Gray’s run with draws.
Stratofortress goes from barrier 1 on the second row, with Hazer on the extreme outside in barrier 14.
American Eyretime also starts from barrier 1 on the second line in race 8.
If she got a good run in the trail or three back she would be a chance, Gray said.
Nota Bene Denario completes Gray’s day in race 11. The 5yr-old has been brilliantly consistent this season and looks set to continue that.