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About time for Times Ticking

Times Ticking winning at the Masterton Racing Club’s meeting at Trentham in May. The seven-year-old gelding will contest the Group 3 Red Badge Sprint at Hastings. PHOTO/PETER RUBERY


Time has been ticking a bit too slowly this year for Alby MacGregor and his talented gelding Times Ticking, and the popular Wairarapa trainer is hoping for a change of fortune at Hastings today.

Times Ticking is one of eight Opaki-trained horses heading to the final day of the prestigious Hawke’s Bay Spring Racing Carnival.

The seven-year-old is set to contest the Group Three Red Badge Spring Sprint over 1400m, a race in which he finished second last year to subsequent Group One winner Two Illicit despite being three wide much of the trip.

Unlike last year, Times Ticking comes into the event without a race this season, though that’s more bad luck than design.

“I took him to Taranaki for the Opunake Cup in July, and he got a bloody stone bruise, and it burst out the next day. I had to scratch him there on the day, and that set us back,” MacGregor said.

The abandonment of the second day at Hastings on October 1 further disrupted Times Ticking’s preparation so MacGregor took him to Foxton for a 1000m trial, which he won by four lengths, however, he developed a bruised heel on Monday.

“I haven’t been able to gallop him, but he’s still been working at the track. I just haven’t put too much pressure on it as far as galloping on it, just pace work,” he said.

“But he’s a pretty lightly-framed horse, and I don’t gallop him a lot anyway.”

Times Ticking has a strong affinity for Hastings, having won twice and been placed three times on the course. However, he must overcome a tricky barrier, having drawn the outside in the 16-horse field, although he will have top jockey Opie Bosson in the saddle.

Veteran trainer Brian Marriott with Bellisimo, who will line up alongside Times Ticking in the main sprint at Hastings. PHOTO/FILE

MacGregor knows a thing or two about success at the Hastings spring carnival, having won this race in 2012 and the Group One Hawke’s Bay Challenge Stakes [now known as the Tarzino Trophy] with his outstanding gelding Fritzy Boy.

Fritzy Boy started an astonishing 22 times at the carnival, also recording another placing in the Challenge Stakes, two placings in the Horlicks Plate [currently known as the Arrowfield Plate] and one in the Hawke’s Bay Guineas. The $843,000 earner is now 18 and still with MacGregor on his farm.

“I still look after the old fella. He’s doing marvellous – when he sees me coming with the hay, he’ll sprint across the paddock like he’s a two-year-old,” he said.

The 75-year-old is now in semi-retirement, and Times Ticking is the only horse he is racing.

“I’ve said at times that Times Ticking would be my last horse, but I don’t really know about that. While you’re healthy, it keeps you going.”

Of the other seven Opaki horses heading to Hastings today, the Roger Allen-trained Ruby Rocks would rate as the best chance of saluting the judge.

The six-year-old mare is set to contest the rating 75 1600m. She bounced back to form with a five-length victory on the first day of the meeting but has been without a run since, after the cancellation of the second day of the carnival. Craig Grylls has retained the ride.

Allen also has the inconsistent Kahu Rocks in the first race, the rating 75 over 2100m, and the fresh-up Subtle Point in the last over 1400m.

Times Ticking will be joined by Brian Marriott’s Bellisimo and the Gerald Innes-trained Cross Roads. The latter is on the ballot and is likely to start in the last. Innes also has Sailor Jack in the rating 65 2200m, while Jim Wallace has the maiden Pennyweka in the premier three-year-old race over 1300m. – NZ Racing Desk

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