The first half of 2020 has been one to forget for Cambridge Raceway-based horseman Matthew White.
It started in the worst possible fashion when he was involved in a horrific race crash at Cambridge Raceway in January.
White sustained bleeding on the brain, a concussion, and three fractured vertebrae, which resulted in his absence from the track until the end of March.
Just two meetings back the COVID-19 pandemic caused racing and New Zealand to shut down for two months.
While frustrated with the way the year has gone to date, White is choosing to look on the bright side of things and is just excited to be back driving at the races.
“It has been a bit frustrating, stopping and starting,” he said. “It is hard to get any sort of momentum, but that has just been the way it is.
“They have been unusual times and I can’t wait for 2020 to end. But I am enjoying being back at the races, it is nice to get back out there and do what I enjoy.”
White trains in partnership with Mike Berger at Cambridge Raceway, which meant they had to turn their entire team out over lockdown.
The pair have enjoyed stepping out a number of their team at the Pukekohe and Cambridge workouts over the past two weeks and their three month absence from the races is set to end at Cambridge Raceway this Thursday.
All Yours, Deamideal, and Mach Little Soaky pleased their trainers with their workouts at Pukekohe on Friday and are set to resume next week.
All Yours took out his 2050m heat after placing at the Auckland track the week prior, and White is hoping he can add to his three-win tally on Thursday.
“He has trialled the last two weeks up there (Pukekohe). We will put him in on Thursday night and kick-off there, I am pretty happy with him.
“He only had the two starts back from a bit of a let-up just before the lockdown. He wasn’t too tired before he had the break, but he has definitely come back well.”
He will be joined by new stable addition Demideal who placed in her 2050m heat on Friday.
The daughter of American Ideal will have her first start on Thursday since August last year and White thinks she will take plenty of improvement from her first-up run.
“She went well on Friday, but just blew out the last wee bit,” he said. “She did a bit of work mid-race. She is doing everything right and I think there is a win or two in her.
“She had quite a long time off. She is a tall mare that doesn’t carry a lot of condition and has come to hand fairly quickly.
“Being a light-framed mare she probably goes well on the fresh side, so we have been a bit cautious with that.
“She has been working up nicely and will progress to the races on Thursday and hopefully she can get a bit of form on the board.”
White admitted he is excited about getting Mach Little Soaky back to the races and he will try and utilise his faultless standing start manners on Thursday.
“We have figured him out a bit now,” White said. “He has got high speed and has strengthened up a bit. I am quite looking forward to him returning.
“He is a last start winner and he has trialled up really nicely over the last two weeks. He is right on target and will probably go around in that 2700m stand on Thursday.
“He seems to appreciate the standing starts, he has always stepped away. He needs the right run though.
“He is a horse that can’t do a lot mid-race work, so if we can get handy enough and get one shot at them to use his high speed, I’d say he would be thereabouts.”
One stable runner that did disappoint White at the workouts was regally-bred filly Emmber.
The daughter of triple Group One winner Lauraella and full-brother to Group One performer Express Stride performed below par in her 2050m heat and White said they will investigate further on Monday.
“We were a little bit disappointed with her on Friday,” he said. “We will just wait and see how she is in the next couple of days.
“We will pull a blood off her on Monday and see where she is at, and go from there.”
White said he is enjoying his first season of training in New Zealand and has been pleased to kick-off his training career in his homeland with Gr.1 New Zealand Cup (3200m) winning trainer Mike Berger.
“I am loving being back training,” White said. “Mike and I get on well and he is a guy with a lot of experience, so he is good to learn off.
“He is very easy going, very approachable, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.” – Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk