Stakes leap for exciting three-year-old
Vigor Winner taking out the Platinum Homes Taranaki Summer Challenge (1400m) last month. Photo: Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)
Emerging three-year-old Vigor Winner will be out to maintain his picket fence formline as he steps up to stakes company for the first time in his brief career when he contests Saturday’s Gr.2 Norwood Family Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham.
The Lauren Brennan-trained galloper strolled to victory on debut at Hawke’s Bay in January and ran out a ready winner of the Platinum Homes Taranaki Summer Challenge (1400m) last month to make it two wins from two starts.
“We want to space his races just because he has some fetlock issues, so we trialled him at Avondale a couple of weeks ago,” Brennan said.
“He ran a nice third and wasn’t placed under any pressure and it was an easy trial. He benefited from the experience of the trip up there.
“The ground was pretty hard that day, so Troy (Harris, jockey) never let him go and he galloped out really well and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Amongst the opposition on Saturday will be Gr.1 New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (1600m) runner-up Dawn Patrol and last start stakes winners Qiji Express, Weaponry and Emily Margaret.
“I think he will be competitive,” Brennan said. “Obviously it is a lot tougher than what he has met in his first two starts, but I think he is up to it.
“We have got to give him a chance at stakes level and he has got a nice draw in barrier four.
“Troy Harris knows him well, so I will leave tactics up to him, but he generally jumps pretty well from the gates.”
Brennan said she might look to try the son of Declaration Of War over a mile at Ellerslie towards the end of the month, depending on how he comes through Saturday’s contest.
After failing the vetting process to race in Hong Kong, Vigor Winner is likely to be a long-term member of Brennan’s team, however high-profile stablemate Sword In Stone has been sold and will be doing his future racing in Hong Kong.
Raced by Singapore-based Englishman Paul Hickman, Sword In Stone was placed in all three of his New Zealand starts, including an eye-catching maiden win at Ellerslie and a narrow third placing in the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m).
The son of Redwood was ultimately left languishing as second emergency for the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) after not amassing enough prizemoney, frustrating both connections and pre-post punters alike.
“You’ve got to expect these things when you’re training in New Zealand,” Brennan said. “The big buyers are overseas and it was an offer that Mr Hickman couldn’t refuse.
“I hope the horse goes on and does well in Hong Kong.
“I’m still getting over him not making the Derby field. It was frustrating more than anything and I knew we had a horse that was going to be competitive and he had drawn well which made it even worse.
“It is one of those things. He was a late starter who didn’t run as a two-year-old, so he couldn’t get that prizemoney.”
Meanwhile, Brennan also has one more target in mind for hardy sprinter Magnum, who finished seventh to star galloper Melody Belle in the Gr.1 Waikato Sprint (1400m) last month.
“He had a week off in the paddock after his last start and we are just freshening him up and getting him ready for the Flying Handicap (Listed, 1400m) at Palmerston North,” Brennan said.
“It’s a race he won last year and that will probably be his last start for the season as there is not much more for 1400m open-class horses and he deserves a break, he has been up a while.”