An inch-perfect ride from Ryan Elliot has seen progressive galloper Hanger return to the winner’s enclosure when successful over 1400m at Ruakaka.
The O’Reilly gelding had been in indifferent form since winning first-up over 1200m at Awapuni back in January. A disappointing last start-performance at Te Rapa back in April saw trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood give him time to get over that run and some impressive trackwork during the week had them confident of a bold showing.
Allowed to drift back from a wide barrier by Elliot, Hanger was giving the leaders a healthy start with 500m to run as the field fanned wide approaching the home bend. Elliot hugged the rails with Hanger who produced a sustained finishing burst to snatch victory from local galloper Spider by a bare nose as the pair hit the finish line locked together.
“It’s great to see him back to winning form as on his day he has any amount of ability but he can do things wrong,” Wellwood said.
“I wanted Ryan to let him find his feet early on and come with one run and he handled him perfectly.
“To be fair, where I was standing, I thought we were going home with the consolation prize so to get the win was a surprise and a very pleasing one at that.”
Wellwood will sit down with James to plan a schedule for Hanger over the winter months although they do have in mind a feature event in the South Island as a possible target.
“Now that he has found some form, I’m hopeful he can maintain that level,” Wellwood said.
“He doesn’t mind some cut in the track so we can pick and choose where we take him over the next couple of months.
“We have talked about the possibility of tackling the Winter Cup (Gr.3 1600m) at Riccarton in early August so we may look at a plan that can get him there as long as he is doing everything right.”
Wellwood was philosophical with the performance of stablemate Killarney who dropped away in the home straight after giving plenty of cheek up until then.
“He (Killarney) has had his issues but we thought we had him somewhere near his best for today,” he said.
“Obviously there is something not quite right with him so we will take him home and have him checked out as when he is at his peak, he would have been very competitive in a race like that.”