Trudy Thornton guides Authentic Paddy to an all-the-way win in the Zabeel Classic.
Making his 19th start at Group One level, perennial big-race placegetter Authentic Paddy finally claimed his elusive "big one" in today's Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie.
In a career that has spanned seven seasons, the son of Howbaddouwantit had recorded 10 previous victories along with placings in the Gr. 1 Captain Cook Stakes (twice), the Herbie Dyke Stakes and the last two editions of the Zabeel Classic.
Returning to Ellerslie today in the midst of a two-year win drought dating back to November 2015, it seemed that the chance of Group One glory may have passed Authentic Paddy by. But with a dominant front-running performance under Trudy Thornton, he proved otherwise.
The 20-to-one outsider went straight to the lead in the 2000-metre weight-for-age feature, heading a quality line-up that included multiple Group One winner Volkstok'n'barrell, Group One winners Lizzie L'Amour, Consensus and Sofia Rosa, and the rising star and favourite Hiflyer.
Authentic Paddy never relinquished that advantage, fighting for all he was worth when tackled in the straight by the last-start Group Two winner Lizzie L'Amour. Surrender was never an option, and the eight-year-old crossed the finish line a length and a quarter in front.
Authentic Paddy is trained by Lisa Latta, who spent the day at her home track Awapuni where she saddled three winners.
Group One success is nothing new for Latta, whose honour roll includes a previous Zabeel Classic winner Mikki Street along with the likes of Wharite Princess and Platinum Witness. But she described today's win as particularly special.
"It's amazing," she told www.theinformant.co.nz. "I'd have to say it's right up there among my very biggest moments in racing.
"He's placed in so many of these big races before and he's gone so close. He tries so hard for us."
While Zabeel mare Lizzie L'Amour would have been a more fitting Zabeel Classic winner for the sponsors, Cambridge Stud's outgoing owners Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan, the name of the winner also holds some poignancy. Paddy was the nickname of the first of Cambridge Stud's legendary stallions, Zabeel's sire Sir Tristram.
Latta indicated that Authentic Paddy's next major target will be at Te Rapa in early February.
"He's nominated for the Herbie Dyke Stakes and we'll work backwards from there," she said. "He's a horse that needs a bit of racing, so we'll give him another couple of runs before then."
Thornton was mobbed by well-wishers after she weighed in, sharing hugs with her premiership-leading daughter Sam Collett, trainer Donna Logan and many others.
Thornton rode 30 winners last season and is already close to eclipsing that with 24 so far this term.
For the popular 54-year-old, who has an artificial hip and has bounced back from a colossal number of injuries and setbacks, this was a first major win since the 2009 Wellington Cup on Megapins.
"I love winning any races, but this is special," she said. "He's a beautiful horse and I'm very grateful to have the ride today."
Authentic Paddy has now had 77 starts for 11 wins, 31 placings and more than $665,000 in prize-money.
Lizzie L'Amour lost nothing in defeat, producing a strong follow-up to her fresh-up victory in the Cal Isuzu Stakes two weeks ago.
Volkstok'n'barrell stuck on well for third, ahead of the defending champion Consensus and Benzini
The race was not run to suit back markers, and beaten favourite Hiflyer was unable to make up a significant amount of ground in the straight.