Santa Catarina (left, Danielle Johnson) gets up to beat Cavallo Veloce and Ole Ole at Te Rapa today.
For the past four years the Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre 2YO Stakes has been run at Te Rapa on the first Saturday of May and every time it has been won by Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh.
Today Marsh extended that dominance with Savabeel filly Santa Catarina, who lived up to her favourite’s tag with a last-bound win over O’Reilly colt Cavallo Veloce.
Marsh won the inaugural running of the 1100-metre Listed feature with No More Tears in 2015, a year later Ugo Foscolo made it a double and last year Ardrossan continued the trend. Santa Catarina made it four on end by only a half-head, but there was a lot to admire by the way she achieved the win.
“We had a good run but when we straightened up she wanted to keep laying in behind the other horse,” said winning rider Danielle Johnson. “Once I got her out into the clear though, she really put in. I know it wasn’t by much but it was a good effort, she’s pretty classy.”
Marsh is reluctant to compare Santa Catarina with his previous winners of the same race or with another dark brown daughter of Savabeel in Lucia Valentina, who he trained until midway through her three-year-old career before she became a multiple Australian Group One winner for Newcastle trainer Kris Lees.
“It’s never easy to compare them but what I do know is that she’s a filly with a lot of ability,” he said. “She should be unbeaten in her three starts to date and she’s got it all in front of her.
"This is a race we like to target with these nice later maturing two-year-olds, so it's good to see another one of them put its hand up.
“I’ve got to talk to Bruce Perry (bloodstock manager for owner-breeder Lib Petagna) and decide what we do, but she’s a stakes winner now and we don’t have to look at that 1400-metre race at Pukekohe later in the month.
“I'd like to think she can go out for spell now and come back for the spring races.”
Spring racing also beckons runner-up Cavallo Veloce, a half-brother to recent Sydney Cup placegetter Charles Road from the final crop of O’Reilly.
“The way it worked out he might have got to the front too soon,” said rider Shaun McKay. “Once he got to the front he started to gawk, then when the other horse came alongside he knuckled down again.
“Maybe at some stage he could do with blinkers, but one thing we know now is that he’s going to be a good horse.”
Ole Ole, dropping back in distance after finishing second in the 1600-metre Champagne Stakes at Pukekohe two weeks ago, put in another good effort for third, while his stablemate Qiji Express caught the eye hitting the line hard for fourth.