Trainer Paul Jenkins is pleased with the progress of promising young stayer Tolemac, who will warm up for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) on March 2 when he tackles the Gr.2 Schweppes Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Jenkins, who has been back and forth between New Zealand and his Sunshine Coast base, said Tolemac showed good improvement from his first-up eighth in the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) when closing well for third over a mile at Ellerslie last start, while also suffering some interference over the concluding stages from relegated first-past-the-post Prise De Fer.
“We have been pleased with both of his runs in New Zealand,” Jenkins said.
“He obviously needed the run the first time out and knocked-up and then to get to the line like he did the other day, he was probably a bit unlucky not to have pinched the race. He caught a little bit of a bump in the last bit.
“He’s pulled up well and trialled really well the other day at Te Aroha.”
Tolemac finished third in the 1200m trial behind Commander and was conservatively ridden with cover.
“He hadn’t raced for a while, so he needed a ride in a truck and a decent gallop to bring him on again,” Jenkins said. “He’s a tough little bloke and he takes a bit of work.
“He was deliberately ridden in-behind in the trial, to fall out and relax. His racing manners are pretty good but we don’t want him over-racing when he gets to the big day.”
Tolemac sports the green and gold colours made famous by Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) winner Jezabeel, with Jenkins’ brother Brian, who trained Jezabeel, amongst the ownership of the Australian raider.
“He was down in Victoria and Brian, who manages the horse, wanted to set him for the Queensland Derby (Gr.1, 2400m) and we talked about it and decided he was well able to be competitive in the race at home (New Zealand Derby),” Jenkins said. “It is a million-dollar race and a Group One.”
Jake Bayliss will again take the reins on Saturday and will have his work cut-out after drawing barrier 14, with Jenkins hopeful there might be some tempo in the three-year-old staying feature unlike the sit and sprint that was last weekend’s Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m).
“It’s something that irks me in Australia too,” Jenkins said. “They never have a true tempo, particularly in the staying races.
“If something is going to pull up in front of everybody and then walk through the middle of them and sprint home, it’s something the stewards should be a bit more active over at times but that is just my opinion. It gets quite frustrating and spoils the race.”
Jenkins, who previously trained at Matamata and enjoyed good success at Ellerslie with multiple Group One winner Bazelle, said he is enjoying his time in Queensland, where he trains half a dozen horses at the Sunshine Coast Turf Club as well as running a small cleaning business.
“I’ve been on the Sunshine Coast for seven years in May,” Jenkins said.
“I did have big ambitions when I got here to have 15 or 20 but to be honest I struggled to gain the clientele. That has turned around a bit now. I’m trying to improve the quality rather than the numbers.
“I really enjoy the climate, I don’t do the cold that well, especially as I get a bit older. I also became extremely frustrated with the way things were in New Zealand with the racing. I’m probably not on my own there.
“In my opinion John Messara’s report was great, but when I went back home for the sales everyone was running about like a headless chook worrying about the odd country track getting closed down, but I really don’t think that was his agenda and I don’t think it is that important.
“His big agenda was getting rid of that Racing Board and privatising the TAB, so they no longer have a monopoly and stranglehold on the betting. Until that changes, nothing else will change.
“The game is falling down around their ears and they have spent $40 million on a new fixed odds betting platform and a website. It is ridiculous.”
Jenkins said racefields legislation was critical to ensure New Zealand Racing gained a share of monies wagered by New Zealanders through offshore operators.
“Most of your best punters in New Zealand, the guys that have a real bet, they don’t bet with the TAB, they bet with corporates in Australia, or your Betfairs and betting exchanges like Citibet and people don’t realise how big that is.”
Despite his gripe with racing administrators in New Zealand, Jenkins said he loves getting home but is content with his decision to relocate to the Sunshine Coast.
“I have a nice life here,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets about moving. I travel home frequently to see people and go to the sales and weddings and birthdays. I get a hell of a lot of people that come and stay with me, so life is good.” – NZ Racing Desk