In­quiry vin­di­cates Warhorse’s Satur­day vic­tory at Eller­slie

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

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.

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