From the inside out, Maygrove wins the Counties Cup from Five To Midnight, Promise To Reign and Francis Drake.
Champion trainer Murray Baker was ducking for cover after Maygrove dug deep for a photo-finish win over Five To Midnight and Promise To Reign in today’s Gr. 3 Ssanyong Counties Cup.
Baker saddled up two runners in the $100,000 Pukekohe feature – Maygrove and Saint Emilion – but with the pair of grey geldings having to share topweight of 60 kilos, he was anything but confident about their chances.
“I was interviewed on Trackside before the race and said neither of them could win,” Baker confessed. “I think their prices blew out, but at least I didn’t have a bet.”
Saint Emilion took up his usual pace-making role in the 2100-metre race while his stablemate settled three back on the rail for Johnathan Parkes before easing out and being poised to lodge his challenge at the top of the straight.
Maygrove took a narrow lead but had Five To Midnight and Promise To Reign right alongside him and then with their heads in front. Carrying seven kilos less than Maygrove, local hope Promise To Reign was definitely in for the fight, as was Awapuni visitor Five To Midnight.
Promise To Reign looked the winner heading into the final 100 metres, but then Five To Midnight dug in and took his turn, only for Maygrove to have the last say with a defiant lunge across the line.
The nearly white seven-year-old, who had returned to form at his last start in the Feilding Gold Cup, notched his ninth career win by a short head from Five To Midnight, with a long head back to Promise To Reign and the same margin to late finisher Francis Drake.
“He’s just a good honest horse,” said Baker. “It was a good ride not doing any more than he had to back on the fence and you had to like the way he fought off the other two (when he was) carrying a lot more weight.
“Where we go from here I’m not sure, he’s not what you’d call a weight-for-age horse, but he’ll be at an even more difficult place in the handicap now.”
Just as admiring was Bruce Perry, bloodstock manager for Maygrove’s part-owner Lib Petagna who two races earlier had witnessed Francaletta carry the same colours to a photo-finish second in the Gr. 2 NRM Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes.
“It was good to see the photo go our way this time,” said Perry. “This horse is a superstar, he gives everything and I have to admit that we love him.”