Defending (Long)champ goes back-to-back in Opunake Cup
Trainer Andrew Campbell’s prerace confidence proved to be right on the mark as Tavistock gelding Longchamp made it back-to-back Opunake Cups in New Plymouth on Sunday.
A day after the listed race was supposed to be run, Longchamp held off a number of challenges near the finishing post to win by a neck from the fast finishing Nashville.
Not since tough winter galloper Irish Rover won three in a row between 2002 and 2004 has a horse defended the cup but Campbell was pretty confident Longchamp could do it after his work on Tuesday.
‘‘He’s got a big heart,’’ Campbell said from the birdcage.
‘‘He’s obviously got a lot of problems with his legs and all that but he’s a brave, brave horse. I wish they were all like that.’’
Campbell had no concerns about the very heavy nature of the track that was waterlogged on Friday after heavy and persistent rain had forced the club to postpone the meeting a day.
He was also delighted with the condition of the horse after he ran a creditable third at Trentham behind New York Minute, before he headed to Awapuni on July 8 where he was pipped at the line by the promising Dolcetto.
Longchamp sat three wide just behind the leaders before Jonathan Parkes went up to the leaders near the turn.
He then found himself out in front pretty easily before he was put under real pressure 200m out.
He responded to the challenge of the Evan and JJ Rayner trained Taurus on the rails and the locallytrained New York Minute before Nashville flew late to almost upset punters who had backed Longchamp into $4.80.
There was a late surge of betting on the winner just before the jump.
Favourite Art Deco had followed Longchamp into the straight but could not go with him to fade to seventh.
Owner, prominent Wellington real estate agent Tommy Heptinsall, has always had a big opinion of the horse and plans to match but Longchamp’s unsoundness has meant he has had to be nursed through campaigns at times.
However, he will be aimed at the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival with the Group I Tarzino Trophy the target.
‘‘Whether we go to the Foxbridge or not, we will just have to see how he pulls up,’’ Campbell added.
‘‘I’m picking we will probably go straight to the Group 1 if we can get there. We will just nurse him along and look after his legs and all that.’’
Longchamp finished fourth in the race, previously the Mafki Stakes, last year when he was two and three-quarter lengths behind winner and multiple Group 1 winner Kawi who was on course on Sunday where he had an exhibition gallop.
Looking more forward than he did at this stage last year, Kawi pleased trainer Allan Sharrock and jockey Jonathan Riddell with his work.
Sharrock is still mapping out plans for Kawi but appears adamant he would keep the Savabeel gelding to sprint distances this campaign which could see him aimed at a race like the Telegraph.