It may have taken a little longer than he would have liked but Cambridge horseman Matthew White secured his first New Zealand training win with About Turn at Cambridge Raceway on Friday night.
White, who trains in partnership with Mike Berger, previously spent 10 years in Australia where he recorded 76 wins in his four seasons of training in Western Australia.
“We finally got that first New Zealand win out of the way, so that was great. It’s a bit of a highlight,” White said.
It was About Turn’s first run since his fourth-placing in the Gr.1 3YO Emerald (1980m) at Addington in June and his trainers had been pleased with him in the lead-up to Friday.
“It was a good run, but he was probably a little bit underdone,” White said.
“It was his first run back in quite a while. He does carry a bit of condition, he is still an entire, so he does take a bit of racing.
“We were expecting a good run, but winning was a bonus. The pleasing thing is there is still plenty of improvement left in him.”
It was also the first appearance of Berger’s colours this season, with About Turn recording the 638th win for the well-known silks.
“He will race in Mike’s colours with the owners having taken over his colours for the season,” White said.
White was also victorious in the cart earlier in the card when reining home Presidential Jewel to win the Kembla NZ Handicap Trot (2700m) for trainer Roger Villiger.
“Presidential Jewel is a nice trotter. She has been in maiden grade for a bit and she was always going to win one pretty soon I thought,” White said.
“She got a lovely trip and didn’t have to do any work and she was too good up the lane. She has got a few wins in her I think.”
Meanwhile, the Cambridge trainers are looking forward to the raceday return of Group One performer Eagle Watch.
“He is back fast-working now,” White said. “We just had to stop with him for a couple of weeks because he had a bit of a virus.
“We treated him and gave him a couple of weeks off. He’s probably about three or four weeks away.
“We will just get him back racing for a start and just see how he comes up. There are some of those better three-year-old races later in the season, which could be a target.”
White wasn’t the only person celebrating a night of firsts at Cambridge Raceway on Friday night.
South Auckland junior driver Sheridan Rapley began her career in the cart with a bang when recording her first win in her first raceday drive behind Pekeson in the Plumbing World Mobile Pace (2200m).
Rapley was rapt with her early success and said she is still coming to terms with Friday night’s result.
“It was awesome, I still really can’t believe it. Everything just unfolded so great for me.
“I was a bit nervous with it being my first drive. When I started coming up through the field I couldn’t believe my luck that the gap just opened and I managed to squeeze my way through them all.”
Rapley, who attained her junior driver license in August, had been biding her time before jumping in the cart on race night and she was pleased that she did.
“I had just been waiting for a good confidence building drive and that really helped last night,” she said.
The victory was made even more special for Rapley given she was able to get the win in her employers colours.
“I work for Dave and Clare McGowan and they were so stoked on Friday night,” she said.
The 22-year-old horsewoman is another success story from Kidz Kartz, having been introduced to the sport through the programme.
“I started Kidz Kartz when I was 14,” she said. “I didn’t even know it was a thing until I started Kidz Kartz and that got me hooked.”
Rapley said she is loving her chosen career path and enjoys learning a lot from watching various trainers.
“I love doing stablehand work, I really like taking care of horses. I learn so much from watching different trainers, it is so rewarding.”
Rapley is now busy trying to set a new goal for herself after achieving her season’s ambition so early in the piece.
“Getting out there and having my first win was my initial goal and now I have got to find a new one,” she said. - Cambridge Raceway
RACE REPLAY: About Turn winning the Hydroflow Mobile Pace