Know Keeper and Claws In Leo prevail in GRNZ Nationals

Although this year’s Nationals Grand Finals were cancelled due to the recent resurgence of Covid-19 in Australia, the State Finals were still able to go ahead on Thursday night, including those held at Addington.

In the $25,000 2021 GRNZ Nationals NZ Distance, Student Loan started as the odds-on favourite. However, it Claws In Leo, the 2021 Silver Collar runner-up, who proved too good over the 732m marathon for Matt Roberts.

Troublesome Kev took the early lead and was in front for the majority of the race. But when he tired late, the challengers came, first in the way of Nangar Ridge, who eventually finished in second, and then in Claws In Leo, who unwound strongly late to score by three lengths in 44.15. Goldstar Truman rattled home for third, in front of the fast-finishing Student Loan.

“We’re over the moon with the result,” says Matt Roberts. “Sarah’s (Clausen, partner) father Peter owns him, and we were really happy to get the result for him, because he puts a lot of time, effort and money into the dogs.

“We were sort of quietly confident before the race because we’d managed to get a good trial into him (Claws In Leo), and I knew some of the other trainers struggled to do that with the abandonments and cancellations of pre-race trials.

“I was hoping before the race that we could just get a sit in third or fourth, as I thought there would be a few in there that might struggle to see it out a wee bit.

“I was really happy to see him sitting there, and I knew that so long as he didn’t get checked from that position, he would be pretty hard to beat.

“We are looking at the Group 2 Wanganui Stayers coming up next month next – it’s worth $15,000, so we aren’t 100 per cent sure if we’re going up yet. But the Wanganui Cup is on at the same time, so if the old man (Craig Roberts) has something in that, we might try and team up.”

In the $25,000 2021 GRNZ Nationals NZ Middle Distance, Bigtime Cooper pinged straight to the lead off Box 4, while Epic Cruze led the chase in behind, with a margin back to the rest of the field. Epic Cruze struck the front coming into the home straight, but in doing so, tangled with Bigtime Cooper. He lost momentum, and Know Keeper capitalised, storming home to score by two and a half lengths for Garry Cleeve in 30.33. The $1.80 favourite It’s A Blaze found the line strongly for third.

“It was very much a great thrill,” says Garry Cleeve. “It’s such a family connection. We raced the mother (Know Jinx) and the father (Know Class). My son Anthony claims Know Keeper as his own!” he laughs.

“Both he and Sydney (daughter) work for us now. There’s a real family involvement and we were all there on the night to share the glory.

“We’ll give him an easy week this week. The Wanganui Cup is the natural progression for him. He’s had a look at most of the tracks around, so he’s had that experience at other tracks.

“It’s always been in the back of our minds to step him up to the 600m and 700m races. Know Class was a good stayer in his own right and Know Jinx came third in the Silver Collar, so all the breeding is there to say he should run the distance, but you don’t really know until you try.”

Know Keeper, who won the Group 1 NZ St Leger back in May, has now had 10 wins from 33 starts, and has amassed $77,000 in prizemoney.

Posted on 16 August 2021

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