Inquiry vindicates Warhorse’s Saturday victory at Ellerslie
It wasn’t the way you’d like to see it happen but ultimately it was the only fair decision when Warhorse was awarded Saturday’s $200,000 Diamond Stakes in the Ellerslie inquiry room.
The Jason Bridgman-trained colt’s win as favourite in the first Group One race of the season for two-year-olds came after Rollout The Carpet, who a fortnight earlier had won the J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes, caused havoc in the home straight when veering across the face of the field to the outside of the track.
Several runners were badly interfered with, not the least Warhorse and Matamata’s other leading entry, Travino.
In her first start on a right-handed track, Rollout The Carpet was all at sea as she made her way up the Ellerslie straight and made a mess of what could have been another win to go with her comprehensive Matamata performance.
Notwithstanding the merit of crossing the line still in front after taking such a wayward course, the debate around whether Rollout The Carpet would have still won if she had run straight will never be resolved. By the same token it’s inarguable that Warhorse was ultimately a worthy winner.
Ridden by temporary Singapore returnee Opie Bosson, he did remarkably well to pick himself and chase hard to be just a halfhead – something like six inches – from Rollout The Carpet at the line.
The siren indicating an inquiry had been sounded by the stewards even before the horses had pulled up.
The final outcome of the complicated inquiry was expected, capping off what may well be the defining single day in Jason Bridgman’s career as New Zealand-based trainer for the extensive Te Akau Racing operation.
Earlier in the Ellerslie programme the stable’s high-profile three-year-old Burgundy had refound the form everyone knew he was capable of when he overcame a tough run to win the Mr Tiz Trophy.
Burgundy has caused more than a few headaches, not through any lack of ability shown by the $1.3 million three-quarterbrother to former Te Akau star Darci Brahma, but rather by the frustrations in harnessing his undoubted talent.
After winning his first three starts in the spring he lined up as favourite in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, only to be upstaged by his stablemate Rock ’n’ Pop as he succumbed to the spontaneous cardiovascular problem known as the ‘‘thumps’’.
After a brief spell Burgundy was given the all-clear to return to full training and he finished third in the Great Northern Guineas on Boxing Day, followed by the same placing in the Wellington Stakes in late January.
While they were both satisfactory results, there was no denying that the 1600-metre distance of both races took Burgundy out of his comfort zone. He was simply too brilliant to be seen at his best at anything further than a sprint distance.
Thus the plan was made to drop the handsome colt back to sprinting and on Saturday he delivered with a plucky win in the 1200-metre Mr Tiz Trophy. In his first start for seven weeks he was still a touch too keen through the middle stages, forcing his rider Matt Cameron to position him wide just off the pace, but when it mattered Burgundy delivered with a courageous finish that produced a narrow but convincing win.
‘‘We were obliged to try him as we did earlier in the season but we did the right thing by pulling the pin after the Wellington Stakes,’’ said his trainer. ‘‘The reality is that he’s so brilliant and so naturally fast we don’t want to fight that sort of talent.
‘‘I think he’s got the makings of a top class sprinter-miler, so for now we’ll stick to shorter races. We’ll just keep him ticking over for the next few weeks and he won’t race again until the Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes (on May 1).’’
As satisfying as Burgundy’s win might have been, it proved to be only an entre´ e to something bigger, Warhorse’s win in the Gr. 1 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes. As mentioned above, the final 200 metres of the race were a real mess and there was no surprise that Warhorse was awarded the race in the inquiry room.
Like Burgundy, the son of Australian speed sire General Nediym is a graduate of the National Yearling Sale, where David Ellis bought him for $100,000 on behalf of Singaporean Tang Weng Fei.
With an Eclipse Stakes win and a third placing in the Karaka Million at Ellerslie already on his formline, Warhorse had surpassed his purchase price with $119,000 in stakes before Saturday. Add the $120,000 Diamond Stakes first prize and the even more significant value of a wellbred Group One-winning colt and you’re talking a horse possibly worth a sevenfigure sum.
For his part, Jason Bridgman takes a lot of satisfaction from the winning double by his high-profile pair.
‘‘Burgundy is a special horse with so much potential and to see him winning at Group level means so much to everyone involved with him,’’ he said. ‘‘As for Warhorse, a Group One win anywhere is special but it felt good to get my first at Ellerslie.’’
Former Te Akau Matamata trainer Mark Walker trains for Tang Weng Fei in Singapore, where the prominent businessman is also the owner of the leading Blandford Lodge-bred performer Better Than Ever.
For his part, Mark produced former Matamata stable member Flying Fulton to win the S$200,000 Polytrack Mile Championship at Kranji on Sunday night. Capping a big weekend double completed by Te Akau’s international branch, Flying Fulton was ridden by former Matamatabased jockey Opie Bosson, who had been in action on the last two days of the Auckland Cup carnival and handled Warhorse in his Diamond Stakes win.
Jason Bridgman, who saddled up the 2000 Guineas winner Rock ’n’ Pop for second to Silent Achiever in last week’s New Zealand Derby, will give Warhorse the chance to complete the autumn juvenile Group One double in The Oaks Stud Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes at Awapuni on March 31. His hand for that race will also include Irish Rebel, who booked his place when second on his home course last month.
In the meantime Rock ’n’ Pop will be heading for Sydney, where he has the Rosehill Guineas on March 31 and the Australian Derby two weeks later on his autumn agenda. Another Matamatatrained colt bound for Sydney is Garry Hennessy’s Ocean Park, who was scheduled to fly across earlier this week and lines up this Saturday in the A$500,000 Randwick Guineas.
The Wellington Stakes winner, who was scratched from the New Zealand Derby due to track conditions, underlined his readiness to take on the best Australian three-year-olds when he won a trial at Cambridge late last week.
John Sargent had what by his own standards rates as a quiet Ellerslie carnival, but he could do little wrong with the team he sent to Waverley on Sunday, collecting four races including the feature Waverley Cup with his handy mare Better Together. That extended John’s season tally to 68 wins and his trainers’ premiership lead to 18 over Jason Bridgman and Kevin Myers.
Warhorse: Gave Jason Bridgman his first Ellerslie Group One victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Diamond Stakes.