Hard Merchandize (Camerno Lammas, orange cap) digs deep for a front-running win in the Sacred Falls Hawke's Bay Guineas.
Four years on from Ransomed’s 30-to-one boilover in the Livamol Classic, Gary Vile returned to Hawke’s Bay racing’s big day and did it again as Hard Merchandize impressively beat a high-class field in the Gr. 2 Sacred Falls Hawke’s Bay Guineas.
The Burgundy gelding defied more than just his $26.90 tote price to take out today’s $100,000 three-year-old feature, where his opposition included five of the top six fixed-odds favourites for next month’s New Zealand 2000 Guineas.
The only reason for the gelding still being Vile’s Awapuni stable to begin with is the fact that he had failed two vet inspections for sales offshore. He had also done his three-year-old campaign no favours by attempting to buck shortly after leaving the gates in his first-up run at his home track last month, and to make matters even worse he drew the extreme outside gate of 14 for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas.
But none of that mattered. Hard Merchandize showed explosive speed out of the starting gates and Cameron Lammas, riding him for the first time, sent him to the head of the field.
Despite finding himself under siege down the straight from the unbeaten Bostonian and the talented pair of Jimmy Lincoln and Griffin, Hard Merchandize never relinquished his lead. He stuck to his guns and fought off all the challengers, edging out Bostonian by half a head in a courageous all-the-way win.
“I’m really grateful to the vets who turned him down to be sold overseas,” Vile said after the race. “They didn’t want anything to do with him, but I’m rapt to have him. It’s great to win a race like this.
“Things hadn’t gone to plan fresh, but the rain and a bit of cut in the ground today helped him. It was a great ride by Cameron. We had to do something from that bad draw, and he went straight to the front and dictated the race from there. He’s a gutsy horse and he showed that today.”
Vile shares ownership of Hard Merchandize with a big group of blue-collar friends, including plumbers and builders, who shared hugs and high-fives in ecstatic post-race celebrations.
“We’re bloody over the moon,” said one. “It’s awesome to win a race like this and we really love this horse. You beauty!”
Hard Merchandize has now had seven starts for four wins and a placing, earning more than $120,000 in prize-money – more than three times the $38,000 that Vile paid to buy him as a Select Sale yearling at Karaka.
The Guineas winner was rated a $51 longshot for next month’s 2000 Guineas at Riccarton before today’s win, and that quote has now been slashed to $18.
But Vile has not yet committed to a trip to Christchurch for the classic, with the new $1 million race for three-year-olds at the Karaka Million meeting in January another attractive option.
“We’ll see,” Vile said.
The win continued an outstanding Hawke's Bay carnival for young Cambridge Stud stallion Burgundy, who also sired the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes winner Dijon Bleu.
Bostonian lost his unbeaten record but little else with a runner-up finish in his fourth career start, while the lightly raced Jimmy Lincoln ran a terrific race to finish third. Both of the placegetters are by the Rich Hill Stud stallion Jimmy Choux, who won this race himself in 2010.
Gingernuts’ younger brother Griffin also stuck on nicely for fourth in just his third career start, and the pedigree of the winner gave Te Akau principal David Ellis extra reason to be pleased with the Guineas result. He bought the sire Burgundy for $1.3 million at Karaka and managed the syndicate that raced him during his successful racetrack career, and he also bought the dam Pride And Passion as a Gold Coast yearling for A$280,000.
By Encosta De Lago out of Calaway Gal, who broke the race record in winning the 2002 Golden Slipper, Pride And Passion is owned by Hard Merchandize’s breeder Christopher Grace.
Bostonian clearly performed best of Tony Pike's highly rated quartet, with Haussmann eighth, Aim Smart 11th and Felton Road 12th. The latter pair both appeared to struggle in the track conditions.