Vigor Winner takes an unbeaten record into Saturday’s Wellington Guineas.
Exciting three-year-old Vigor Winner will face his toughest test to date when he takes an unbeaten record into Saturday’s $100,000 Gr. 2 Norwood Family Wellington Guineas at Trentham.
After making a big impression with two trial wins, the Declaration Of War gelding kicked off his career in spectacular style on New Year’s Day at Hastings. After disputing the pace three-wide, he careered away in the straight to win by three and a half lengths.
Vigor Winner’s only other start came in the $80,000 Taranaki Summer Challenge at New Plymouth, where he scored another stylish victory over a talented field.
The gelding warmed up for Saturday’s challenge with a trial placing at Avondale on February 26.
“His gallops in the last couple of weeks have been outstanding. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
“He’s been really impressive in both of his starts and I think he’s a horse with a huge amount of natural talent,” trainer Lauren Brennan said.
“We took him to Avondale for a bit of a day out. He’s going six weeks between races, so we thought the trip up to Avondale and a bit of a quiet trial would bring him along nicely.
“The track was quite hard and we didn’t want him to jar up, so it was deliberately a very quiet trial. Troy (Harris) just held him up as much as he could.
“He’s been doing really well since then. His gallops in the last couple of weeks have been outstanding. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Depending on his performance this weekend, Vigor Winner may step out over a longer distance later on in the autumn.
“There’s a Group Two race at Ellerslie next month (the 2100-metre Championship Stakes on April 20) which we might have a look at, and then we’ll put him out and look forward to his four-year-old season.”
The best-performed runner in Saturday’s Guineas field is Dawn Patrol, who won his first two starts before a gallant second to Madison County in the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas.
The chestnut gelding ran second to Hypnos in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes at Ellerslie in his only other start. He was ruled out of the Karaka Million 3YO Classic due to a virus.
The son of Dawn Approach was an outstanding trial winner at Rotorua last week, winning by three and three-quarter lengths over 1000 metres.
“He just wasn’t 100 per cent for Ellerslie, so we backed off him rather than risk completely flattening him,” trainer Frank Ritchie told NZ Racing Desk.
“His blood just wasn’t right and he has had a few little niggles since, so we have just taken him along quietly to this point.
“The trial was really to see where he was at, and he certainly impressed plenty of people who were on hand to watch it.
“We know he has a real turn of foot and it was good to see him show that without any pressure being put on him. I think he has matured during the break and he is very forward to resume.
“We think he is far better suited going left-handed, so the Wellington Guineas was the obvious target for him. If he performs well there, we will look at where he can go next with Australia a definite option.
“I think he would be suited to a roomy track like Randwick or Eagle Farm, but it might be best to look at Melbourne so we can keep him going left-handed.”
Joining Vigor Winner and Dawn Patrol in a strong Cambridge contingent in this year’s Guineas are two stakes-winning sons of Shamexpress – Qiji Express and Cyber Attack.
Qiji Express was a stakes placegetter last season and ran a close second to Sword Of Osman in the Gr. 2 Sarten Memorial at Te Rapa in the spring.
Freshened after finishing only eighth in the 2000 Guineas, Qiji Express resumed with a brilliant win in the Listed Mufhasa Stakes at Ellerslie earlier this month.
“It was a very impressive performance first-up,” co-trainer Andrew Forsman said. “He’s a classy horse and probably a little bit under-rated.
“He got the gun run and got all favours that day, hopefully it’ll be more of the same on Saturday. It’s going to be another step up with a few smart ones in the field.”
The Tony Pike-trained Cyber Attack won the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy in the spring and placed in the Gr. 3 Mongolian Khan Trophy in January. He didn’t have much room in the straight when sixth in the Mufhasa Stakes.
Talented filly She’s A Thief overcame a wide run for a commendable second in the Mufhasa Stakes.
“It was a really good run at Ellerslie and her work has been good since then,” co-trainer Pam Gerard said. “I think it’s actually the best she’s ever come through a run.
“We’re looking forward to stepping her up over 1400 metres this weekend and seeing how she goes.”
Emily Margaret is a dual stakes winner this season in the Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes and NZB Insurance Stakes. She finished ninth in the Gr. 3 Desert Gold Stakes at Trentham in late January.
Cavallo Veloce won at Trentham on Wellington Cup day in January and has finished fourth in both of his subsequent starts including an eye-catching finish in the Mufhasa Stakes.
Hastings trainer John Bary has two runners in the Guineas field. King Louis won the Gr. 3 Mongolian Khan Trophy at Ellerslie and was a close last-start fifth in the Mufhasa Stakes. Miss Labasa won all of her first three starts before finishing outside the placings after over-racing in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic. She was fifth in the Gr. 2 Lowland Stakes over 2100 metres last start.