Sensei sensational in Riccarton dash
Enigmatic sprinter Sensei was on his best behaviour as he dashed away from his rivals to win the Listed Yesberg Insurance Services Pegasus Stakes (1000m) at Riccarton on Saturday.
The Dream Ahead five-year-old entire has always shown that he could become a force as a top-level sprinter but had managed to get in his own way at times with some wayward behaviour during his races.
Fresh-up into Saturday’s Listed event on his home turf after a quiet trial at Ashburton, Sensei travelled beautifully for rider Sam Weatherley throughout before producing an irresistible finishing burst once he found clear air at the 300m.
Under a hands and heels ride, Sensei won easing down by three lengths from a brave Shezallmine, who disputed a hot speed throughout, while Pippi Rea made up good ground to run third.
“From the word go we’ve had a massive opinion of the horse,” co-trainer Matthew Pitman said.
“He hasn’t had the best of luck at the top level so hopefully he can get some this season because it is all in front of him.”
Pitman’s father Michael, who trains in partnership with his son, cut an emotional figure after the race with the victory of the horse named in honour of his late son Jonny, who took his own life back in 2013.
“People don’t realise but this horse has been in work since June,” he said.
“It’s a massive team we’ve got and I’m just so appreciative of the job my wife (Dianne) and Matthew do, also Brittany (Moore).
“You don’t arrive at a Cup meeting with the horses we’ve got without a lot of people involved.
“Sam Weatherley came and rode him at the Ashburton trials where he went super although he only ran fourth but it was a wet track that day.
“Bring on a dry track and we will try and do a Coup Align.”
Pitman was referring to his class sprinter Coup Align, who is the last horse to take out the Pegasus Stakes/Gr.3 Lindauer Stewards Stakes (1200m) double, with the Group Three event contested on the middle day of the Riccarton Carnival.
Sensei has drawn ten in a 16-horse line-up for Wednesday’s contest, with the field headed up by his stablemate Enzo’s Lad who will make his racetrack reappearance after racing at the Royal Ascot Carnival in England back in June.