It has been somewhat of a ghost town at the Cambridge Jockey Club, New Zealand’s largest thoroughbred training centre, over the last month.
It has sat mostly empty during the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown, but with the country set to enter Level 3 at 11:59 pm on Monday, restrictions on training are set to ease.
Local horseman Stephen Marsh is one of a number of trainers that will welcome back a large number of their team on Tuesday and he is looking forward to resuming what he loves, training.
“It will be good to see the horses back in, I am looking forward to it,” Marsh said.
“We will have 50 come back in tomorrow (Tuesday). A lot of them are going to be babies coming in for their first prep, a few of the winter team, and some we will just bring up slowly.
“There won’t be a lot to race early doors, but just a few yearlings to get them through the system. We have had none of them through the stables as yet.
“It will be a nice number to start off with and mid-May we will get another 10 in and another 20 from June 1 and then we will be back into the full-swing of things.”
Having 50 horses return to the stable at a single time could prove to be a logistical nightmare, however, Marsh said the team at Majestic Horse Floats have been ideal to work with.
“We booked them in about a week ago with Majestic,” Marsh said. “They have got plenty of trucks, so they will get them all into us within three hours. They do a really good job.”
A large number of Marsh’s team have been spelling on the Waikato property he owns in partnership with leading syndicator Go Racing.
While that has been good to keep cashflow going for the business, Marsh said a treadmill on the property has also been beneficial for a number of the team that are set to return when racing resumes from July.
“We bought a farm with Go Racing and we have a treadmill there,” Marsh said. “We have had half a dozen within the last 10 days on the treadmill, just to bring them up quietly, the ones we are going to want to race early July.”
While Marsh is looking forward to the resumption of racing, he is wary about the potential drop in stakes money and said a move across the Tasman is possible if prizemoney dived.
“I am probably more looking forward to seeing what the stake money is like to see if it is worth training here,” he said.
“If the stake money drops, you have got to consider Australia, because if we don’t, all of our owners will be and we could lose the lot.
“I know Australia’s (prizemoney) has dropped a little bit, but we can’t afford to drop.
“I am very interested to see the new stake money and I am very worried about it.”
Marsh has experienced success campaigning horses in Australia in the past, highlighted by Sofia Rosa’s win in the 2016 Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) and Chocante’s victory in the Gr.2 Brisbane Cup (2400m).
Like most New Zealand trainers, he has also become accustom to horses departing his stable for overseas markets, with multiple Group One winner Lucia Valentina another top-liner to stem from his Cambridge base.
While Marsh is contemplating an Australian stable, one of his former stable runners is set to remain across the Tasman for good.
Dual stakes winner and Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) placegetter Scorpz was retired after his run in the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Marsh said they have found a great home for the son of Charm Spirit.
“Scorpz broke down in the Rosehill Guineas and has been retired. We found him a really nice home over there, he will be looked after for the rest of his days.
“He did a super job for us and I was rapt to have him.”