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