Te Aroha trainer Louise McGregor is winning the mind games with her capable galloper Parnell Prince. Racing editor Aidan Rodley reports.
In an intriguing game of wits, Te Aroha trainer Louise McGregor is coming out on top.
Yes, she’s only trying to outwit a horse, but Parnell Prince is far from a pushover.
In the past, just the slightest distraction could alter his mood so much he would refuse to race truly and his formline was suffering as a result.
But McGregor, 42, showed that training the mind was just as important as training the athlete when she reflected on Parnell Prince’s career-best win in Saturday’s $25,000 Lockwood Coastwood Homes Thames Gold Cup (2000m).
‘‘He’s a neat horse and we adore him but Murray [stable name] has all these little idiosyncrasies that we have to work out and everyday is a challenge,’’ McGregor said afterwards.
‘‘But if we can have him grinning in the morning - and I literally know in the morning, this morning we were happy - then we’re in with a show.
‘‘Everything is day to day with him. He’s just a mystery. Honestly, I just don’t know. If you do so much as anything he doesn’t like and make him angry, he just packs a sad.
‘‘I did something completely different with him last night and made sure there was no horse boxed either side of him so no one could piss him off.
‘‘I just try and out-think him each day. I’ve put a muzzle on him, changed his handler - just anything to try and out-think him.’’
McGregor said she figured she had him right for Saturday’s feature when he was a box of birds on race morning.
Asked what was the giveaway sign, McGregor quipped: ‘‘He winks at me.’’
Saturday’s win, in the hands of Pukekohe jockey Danielle Johnson, was Parnell Prince’s fifth win from 21 starts and took his earnings past $55,000.
Johnson had Parnell Prince positioned inside the first four in running for most of the race before angling off the fence at the 600m and challenging for the lead at the top of the straight.
From there, the Keeper five-year-old gelding gained ascendancy over Captain Marvel to score by three-quarters of a length, with a length back to Natsinga in third.
Dancing Chief was a nose back in fourth, having worked forward midrace after he was trapped wide, with Viking Ace and Seaflyte the next pair home.
‘‘I’ve popped out three wide, just travelling up next to them beautifully and he’s just kicked away and been too good,’’ Johnson said.
‘‘I was always close enough to them that they didn’t get too far away and he’s just just fought really well to the line.
‘‘We’re on a roll at the moment. Louise is doing a great job with the horses and hopefully we can carry it on.’’
It was the second feature win for the week for McGregor, Johnson and Hamilton owner Keith Parsons after Grande Bellezza took out last Tuesday’s $75,000 Dunstan Feeds Championship Final.
‘‘We’ve had a great week. We’re in it for the wins ... hence I’ve got no voice,’’ McGregor said.
The results signalled McGregor’s arrival as a trainer, the former top show rider emerging from a well-respected breaker for the likes of Trevor McKee and John Sargent to make her own mark as a trainer.
‘‘I’ve waited for my opportunity. I’ve just needed someone to have faith in me and Keith has,’’ she said.
Parsons, who has nine horses in work with McGregor, was winning the Thames Cup for the second year in a row, having been a part-owner of last year’s winner Roi d’jeu, who was trained by Cambridge’s Shaune Ritchie, the original trainer of Parnell Prince and Grande Bellezza.
He also enjoyed success on Saturday as a part-owner of the Chris Wood-trained Woodville winner Open ‘N’ Shut.
‘‘I could get used to this,’’ Parson said afterwards.
‘‘You never get them winning like this too often. I guess it just balances out the times when it’s tough because sometimes this can be a difficult game. Lou has done a great job with this horse and Danielle has done a great job riding for us too.
‘‘I’m privileged to own such a great horse as this bloke. He’s nominated for the Thorndon Mile but whether that’s a bit rich, I’m not sure. But he’s won with some authority today so we’ll give it some thought.’’
McGregor more or less confirmed the Thorndon target soon afterwards.
‘‘This is like a mile, the 2000m on a tight-turning track at Thames, and that was the whole idea of coming here,’’ she said.
Parsons said he had ruled out a tilt at the Gr II Wellington Cup for Grande Bellezza in favour of a $30,000 2100m special conditions maiden at Ellerslie the following day.
‘‘After that we’ll go to the Avondale Cup and then maybe think about the Auckland Cup. He’s won three from seven since joining Lou and that’s no disrespect to Shaune [Ritchie] because he’s an excellent trainer.
‘‘But Lou is going to do well. She’s got a lovely touch and horses just respond to her.’’
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