Ritchie runner secures Derby ticket at Ellerslie
A moment of Leith Innes magic has seen race favourite Formidable snatch a last gasp victory in the Listed Auckland Age Concerns 3YO Salver (2100m) at Ellerslie.
The Shaune Ritchie trained Shocking gelding was having his first start since clearing maiden company over 1600 metres at Avondale in late November and was warmly supported off the back of that impressive victory.
|Formidable Photo: Trish Dunell|
Facing just the six rivals, Formidable settled last in a compact field as Unnameable and Eiltilt set a steady pace out in front. Proceedings began to get serious as the field approached the home bend with Innes finding himself in an awkward position as several rivals swept around the outer to have Formidable last and blocked behind a wall of runners.
Innes didn’t panic as he searched for a gap that finally came at the 150-metre mark as Formidable dived between runners before dashing to the front in the shadows of the post. Second favourite, The Boy Wonder, fought hard to finish a neck away in second with Secret Ambition losing no admirers as he closed hard out wide for third.
“No one rides Ellerslie quite as well as Leith,” said Ritchie after the race.
“He never seems to go wide and always seems to find a run. I guess we were lucky when he was only a couple of lengths from the leader but last at the 200m, but he knew he had a horse under him and he did the job right.”
Ritchie has made no secret of his Gr. 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) ambitions with his charge and once again confirmed those aspirations after the win.
“That’s what you like to see when you are pressing forward to the big dance in March,” he said.
“He’s now got his ticket I guess on that win.
“He just keeps improving as he hasn’t got it right each time and has made mistakes, but he’s just got better and better.
“That’s what you want to see when you have them heading over ground.
“He will go to the paddock for ten days now then we will find a mile for him before tackling the Avondale Guineas.
“He does hold a nomination for the Karaka Mile, so we could pop the blinkers on him and sharpen him up for that. It might be a little short for him but it’s a million-dollar race, so you have to have a go don’t you.”
The Listed $1m Karaka 3YO Classic (1600m) will be run at Ellerslie on 27 January followed by the Gr. 2 Electrolux Avondale Guineas (2100m) three weeks later, on 17 February. – NZ Racing Desk