China Star (Robert Hannam) prevails in a tight finish to the Manawatu Breeders' Stakes.
Popular jockey Robert Hannam completed a triumphant comeback from injury with a black-type win on China Star in today’s Gr. 3 LJ Hooker Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes at Awapuni.
Hannam returned to riding just over a month ago, after spending several months on the sidelines after breaking a leg in a starting-gate incident in India in September.
The 51-year-old had already ridden four winners since his return, but went to a new level today with a 22-to-one upset in the $70,000 fillies and mares’ feature.
“I haven’t been back riding that long, so to get five winners of any kind, let alone the stakes race today – I’m very happy with that,” he told www.theinformant.co.nz.
Hannam had previously guided China Star to four victories, most recently in December 2015.
“She actually hadn’t won a race since that last time I won on her a few years ago,” Hannam said. “She can be a bit of a funny horse. She can’t handle the sit-sprint races. She needs to slide into the race and outstay them, and today things went perfectly for her.”
China Star sat in second place through the early part of the 2000-metre feature as Royal Ruby set a solid pace.
Hannam moved China Star up to challenge for the lead at the top of the straight, and she gradually got the upper hand over the last 250 metres. All In Vogue stormed home down the outside with a last-minute challenge, but China Star held on by a head. Royal Ruby stuck on gamely to finish a close third.
While China Star has gone more than two years without a win, subsequent years have yielded a second placing to Jimmy Mac in the Listed Marton Cup, a fourth in last year’s Gr. 2 Travis Stakes at Te Rapa, plus fourth and fifth placings in the Marton Cup.
She was a last-start 11th in the Gr. 3 Cuddle Stakes, after which her trainer Lisa Latta sent her to the Foxton trials for a second placing behind Nymph Monte.
“She always seems to come right at this time of the year and we gave her a trial 10 days ago at Foxton that cleaned her up nicely,” Latta told NZ Racing Desk.
“It was a strong win and Robbie summed things up perfectly. He said there would be good speed in the race. It was nice to give Robbie his first Group winner since coming back.”
China Star has now had 44 starts for six wins, 10 placings and $137,125 in prize-money. Hannam has been aboard for five of those victories.
Latta now intends to take the seven-year-old mare back to Te Rapa later this month.
“She’ll go to the Travis Stakes after this, she was fourth in it last year,” she said.
China Star became the second stakes winner for her sire, the Stravinsky stallion Chinese Dragon, who formerly stood at Goodwood Stud. Serpent, trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, won the Listed New Zealand St Leger in 2013.