Clarify (Shaun McKay) completes a powerful Manawatu Cup victory.
Matamata trainer Peter McKay has had more lows than highs this season, but he turned things around in style with a double at Awapuni today that included the $100,000 Gr. 3 Hotel Coachman Manawatu Cup with Clarify.
McKay had won just two races from 55 starters in a frustrating 2017-18 leading into today, and he was forced to scratch stable star Amarula from this afternoon's other feature - $100,000 Gr. 2 Kamada Park Manawatu Challenge Stakes. The son of Thorn Park was in the right form to be a leading chance in the weight-for-age event, but was forced out by a foot injury.
Things began to take a turn for the better for McKay when Barcelo made a welcome return to winning form in the Rating 75 Property Brokers Premier earlier this afternoon, and then Clarify’s Manawatu Cup heroics two races later made it a day to remember.
“It’s bloody great,” McKay said. “We’ve had a pretty average season, so it’s great that things turned around.”
Clarify rose to prominence just under 12 months ago when he came off the ballot and scored a runaway win in the Dunstan Stayers’ Championship Final on New Year’s Day at Ellerslie. After a series of close-up performances he returned to Ellerslie last start and scored his first win since the Dunstan Final, outclassing Rating 75 opposition by three lengths.
With a habit of being slow to begin, the inside draw could have been a problem for Clarify in today’s 2100-metre feature. But McKay’s son Shaun kept the five-year-old son of Savabeel off the rail and out of trouble in midfield.
The pace was strong throughout the race, and as some of the front-runners began to feel the pinch Clarify made his move. He improved out wide from the 600-metre mark to the home turn, then ranged up alongside the leader Woodsman in the straight.
Blathwayt and Alinko Prince ran on strongly in the last 200 metres, but Clarify had forged clear and was out of their reach.
“It was a very good ride by Shaun,” Peter McKay said. “He can be pretty tardy at the start and it was possible that he’d get pushed back, but Shaun got him off the rail.
“They went pretty hard out in front, but he slowly rolled forward, joined the fight at the corner and won it. He’s a top horse.”
Bred and raced by the Smithies family’s Monovale Holdings, Clarify has now won five of his 27 starts and more than $175,000 in prize-money. He is now likely to target the Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on March 10.
“He won’t go back to the Dunstan Final again now,” McKay said. “He’s got a nomination for the Auckland Cup, so we’ll work towards that and see how we go.”
It was the second black-type win for Shaun McKay, who was champion apprentice in the 2015-16 season. His first stakes win came on Amarula in the Gr. 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas in October 2015.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “The one draw wasn’t the best for him, but I just tried to get him out when I could. He was two-wide with cover down the back.
“I got him going a fair way out and it was an enormous win. He was only carrying 54 kilograms, which was a lot less than most of the others, and once he gets to the front he’s pretty hard to run down.”
Blathwayt was game under his 60-kilogram topweight, while Alinko Prince did his Wellington Cup prospects no harm with a strong late run.