Returning to the course and distance of his biggest win, class galloper Sword Of Osman made it look easy in the opening race at Ellerslie this afternoon.
The Savabeel gelding was one of New Zealand’s best two-year-olds last season, winning three races including the 1200-metre Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes at Ellerslie last March.
His early three-year-old campaign has had its ups and downs, with a Gr. 2 Sarten Memorial victory sitting amongst unplaced finishes in the Gr. 3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes, Gr. 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas and the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas.
Freshened and down in distance for his first start since the 2000 Guineas, Sword Of Osman is building towards the Gr. 3 Mongolian Khan Trophy at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night, January 26. Last year’s edition of the three-year-old sprint was won by his top-quality stablemate Melody Belle.
Today’s $25,000 Auckland Co-Op Taxis 1200 was the ideal dress rehearsal. After trailing Mannering for the first 800 metres of the race, jockey Opie Bosson eased off the brake around the home turn.
Sword Of Osman cruised to the front and quickly put the result beyond doubt, opening up a clear lead as a big contingent of the Te Akau Great Sword Syndicate broke into applause in the stands.
With 60.5 kilograms on his back, Sword Of Osman completed an easy victory by a length and a quarter. He ran the 1200 metres in 1:10.03 on a track rated Good3.
“This was pretty much a track gallop for him,” Bosson said. “He pulled me into the race turning for home and was too good.”
Sword Of Osman has now had 10 starts for five wins and more than $277,000 in prize-money.
“This was a nice hitout for him,” trainer Jamie Richards said. “The team at home have done a good job with him since the Guineas, and this will tighten him up nicely for the race in a couple of weeks’ time.”
While Richards has not completely ruled out a return to 1600-metre racing in future, he says Sword Of Osman will stick to 1200 or 1400 metres for now.
“I think he’s trying to tell us he’s a 1200 or 1400-metre horse,” he said. “I’m not totally sure yet whether the 2000 Guineas was because of the mile or the wet track, so I can’t say we won’t try him again at that distance in future. But we’ll stick to the sprints for now.”
The runner-up was The Chosen One, who won his first two starts including the Listed Zacinto Stakes before striking bad luck and finishing well back in the 2000 Guineas. The well-bred son of Savabeel made up good ground for today’s second placing, two lengths ahead of the third-placed Satriani.
“He felt good, and going up to 1400 or a mile next time will be ideal,” reported rider Matt Cameron, who teamed up with trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman to win yesterday’s Gr. 1 Levin Classic on the colt’s star stablemate Madison County.
Like Madison County, The Chosen One may be pointed towards the $1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic in 13 days’ time.