South­ern Icon’s form re­ver­sal

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - DENNIS RYAN Rac­ing colum­nist

All that Alan Tait could do at Te Rapa on Satur­day was shake his head as he strug­gled to ex­plain the form re­ver­sal of his run­away win­ner South­ern Icon.

Af­ter lin­ing him up three times this cam­paign for no bet­ter than fifth on each oc­ca­sion – and not help­ing his chances with some way­ward man­ners – this time South­ern Icon was all busi­ness.

Af­ter jump­ing from his in­side start­ing gate, he es­tab­lished an early lead that he never looked like re­lin­quish­ing. In fact the fur­ther he went in the 1400-me­tre race, the wider the mar­gin over his ri­vals, and at the win­ning post the near­est of them was 11 lengths adrift.

‘‘Don’t ask me, it’s got me beat,’’ vol­un­teered the three-year-old’s be­mused trainer. ‘‘ For some rea­son he hung badly in both his Ruakaka starts but to­day he’s gone out there and gone as straight as a die.’’

The for­mer South­lander trains South­ern Icon for his wife Gay­lene and long-time sta­ble sup­porter Mike Collinson, who was the owner-breeder of the sta­ble’s best horse, Point Guard. The lit­tle ch­est­nut raced for seven sea­sons be­tween 2003 and 2010, win­ning nine of his 83 starts and plac­ing sec­ond or third 19 times for close to $200,000 in stakes.

South­ern Icon, who was bought as a year­ling in Aus­tralia, is by the 2008 Ken­tucky Derby win­ner Big Brown. He won his first start as a two-year-old and fin­ished sec­ond in the next, but un­til Satur­day had not looked like repli­cat­ing that form.

His reg­u­lar jockey Mark Hills sug­gested the step up to 1400 me­tres, with the eas­ier tempo en­abling him to take the lead, played a big part in Satur­day’s re­turn to form.

‘‘Af­ter he had been rac­ing over 1200 me­tres and not get­ting to the front I sug­gested to Alan that he step him up to 1400 me­tres,’’ Mark ex­plained. ‘‘With less pres­sure on early he was able to lead and he was trav­el­ling all the way. He’s fol­lowed the rail and bolted in.’’

With

the

cur­tain

set

to come down on the cur­rent sea­son in three weeks’ time, new sea­son plans are well in hand for some of the Mata­mata stars of last sum­mer. Puc­cini, the cham­pion three­year-old of 2012-13 and a Group One win­ner again at four in the Thorn­don Mile at Tren­tham last Jan­uary, is get­ting through his work well as train­ers Peter and Ja­cob McKay make plans for the Hawke’s Bay spring car­ni­val.

The un­cer­tainty about early spring weather and Puc­cini’s need for good ground will de­ter­mine ex­actly how his early sea­son pro­gramme un­folds, which is also the case for Dan­ica Guy’s Rail­way Stakes win­ner In Style.

In the only start sub­se­quent to her big Eller­slie sprint win she suf­fered an in­jury at the start of the Tele­graph at Tren­tham, but she has made a full re­cov­ery and is well on tar­get for new sea­son fea­tures. Her tal­ented sta­ble­mate To­mor­row­land is also mak­ing pleas­ing progress, while Dan­ica’s other head­line act, Gr. 1 Levin Clas­sic win­ner Gaultier, has been sold and is shortly to head to Hong Kong.

Rail­way run­ner-up Whosy­our­mas­ter is yet another smart lo­cal sprinter gear­ing up for the spring with Lance O’Sul­li­van and An­drew Scott. They have ear­marked the Gr. 2 Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa in mid-Au­gust as a def­i­nite tar­get and a nat­u­ral lead-in to the Gr. 1 Makfi Chal­lenge Stakes later in the month at Hast­ings.

Whosy­our­mas­ter ended a frus­trat­ing mid-sea­son cam­paign with a flour­ish, win­ning black- type sprints at Tren­tham and Hast­ings in his fi­nal two starts, and even as a seven- year- old in the new sea­son he can be re­lied upon to step up to the mark again.

Photo: TR­ISH DUNELL

South­ern Icon first, day­light sec­ond as the Alan Tait-trained gal­loper wins by 11 lengths at Te Rapa last Satur­day.

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