Proven international jockey Grant Cooksley tasted success of a different kind at Ruakaka on Sunday when saddling up his first two winners as a trainer.
Cooksley gained his trainers’ license in late March to go into partnership with Bruce Wallace and he produced Splendido and Havana Heat to win, while Badea (his other runner at the Ruakaka meeting) finished second.
Making the occasion even more memorable for Cooksley was having stable apprentice Masa Hashizume share in the milestone.
“He’s a good young rider,” Cooksley said. “He’s got good balance and pushes them out well. And he listens and takes it in. I’m happy for him.”
Hashizume (23) transferred to the Cooksley-Wallace stable after initially being apprenticed to Matamata trainer Graham Richardson and appreciates the significance of the wins.
“Mr Cooksley almost smiled,” Hashizume said jokingly in reference to the poker face for which Cooksley is well-known.
Cooksley admits it was a special feeling notching that first training win with Splendido, even though he has ridden more than 2600 winners (over 1000 wins in New Zealand), registered 66 Group One wins and enjoyed success in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau and New Caledonia.
“It’s a bit different than winning as a jockey,” he said.
“I got the same enjoyment, but you put in more background work as a trainer. Because of that it probably feels a bit better to win as a trainer.”
Cooksley had to settle for four seconds and a couple of thirds as a trainer before Splendido’s breakthrough win, which didn’t surprise him.
“He had been working really well and I did a bit of jumping with him just to vary his work,” Cooksley said. “He’s got the ability and it’s good to see him winning again.”
Splendido contested the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) after six placings, including seconds to Group One winners Lizzie L’Amour and Provocative and Derby runner-up What’s The Story and was also Listed runner-up as a three-year-old.
Cooksley was aboard when Splendido notched his previous win, at Avondale over 2100m in January 2017 when dictating terms in front and Hashizume copied the tactics at Ruakaka.
“I followed what Mr Cooksley had done when he won on him at Avondale,” Hashizume said.
Hashizume also got to the front on Havana Heat and the pair hung on narrowly to score by a short head, while Badea was outfinished by I See Red.
“It was a perfect day for me until I dropped my stick on Badea,” Hashizume said. “I think she could have won, too.”
Hashizume has ridden five winners and is looking forward to riding one of those, Crystallize, again at Te Rapa on Saturday for trainer Danny Walker.
Cooksley is also keen to keep the momentum going for Hashizume, though he knows his stable won’t be into full force until later in the season.
“We’re working 20 at the moment and we won’t have much going until the end of September,” he said. “For now, there are the three horses who ran at Ruakaka and One Kotuku Street, who might run at Te Rapa on Saturday.”
Six-race winner Ronchi, the highest-rated member of the stable and a multiple black type placegetter with Cooksley aboard, is back in work and coming along quietly.
“He’s been back in around five weeks and he’s come back looking well,” Cooksley said. “He’ll tell me when he’s ready.”
Gino Severini, a winner in Ireland who joined the Byerley Park stable via Hong Kong, is also in the early stages of another campaign.
He was a winner at Ruakaka last January and runner-up twice from five New Zealand starts last campaign.
Cooksley also has hopes for Blackrocksdetox, who was put aside after running on late for eighth in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie last January.
The son of Rip Van Winkle was third on debut last November in a Listed 1100m event at Pukekohe behind the talented Bavella then finished third to Appellant (third equal in the Karaka Million 2YO) at Ellerslie.
“I’ll just take him through the grades and he could be a nice three-year-old,” Cooksley said. “He could kick off in a 1200m race at Ruakaka at the end of September.
“It’s taken a while working the horses out, but I’ve got a nice team to work with this season.”