Montoya Star (Michael McNab) denies Symphonic in a tight finish to the Cuddle Stakes.
Michael and Matthew Pitman nailed their North Island black-type mission with under-rated mare Montoya Star in the Gr. 3 Wentwood Grange Cuddle Stakes at Trentham this afternoon.
The father-and-son Riccarton team had never been in any doubt that their daughter of High Chaparral was up to stakes class, and today’s $70,000 Cuddle Stakes was a race they had been targeting for months.
Montoya Star’s northern campaign began on a strong note with a close fourth behind Thee Auld Floozie, Lizzie L’Amour and Coldplay in the Gr. 2 Westbury Classic at Ellerslie in late January, then a tough win over stablemate Son Of Maher in an open handicap at Hastings earlier this month.
It was all done with the aim of getting her to Trentham today at the peak of her powers, and it could not have gone any better.
Michael McNab settled the $3.50 favourite in sixth place as La Fille En Jeu and Hello M’Lady showed the way for most of the 1600-metre journey.
McNab brought Montoya Star home with a perfectly timed run in the straight, edging out Symphonic by a long head. Flamingo produced an eye-catching run from third-last to finish third.
Bought at a Gold Coast yearling sale for A$20,000, Montoya Star has now won nine of her 26 starts and more than $180,000 in prize-money.
“I’m just so rapt with her,” Michael Pitman said. “We didn’t have to pay very much for her, and she’s a little treasure.
“She’d been working really well. Every time she’s been ridden right – and I’m not criticising anyone – she’s won. She has to be smothered up.”
The Pitmans will now raise their sights even further for a crack at the Gr. 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha on April 7.
“We were going to run her at Riccarton next week, but I guess we’ll be going to Te Aroha now,” Pitman said.
There was a frightening moment in the home straight as injury-plagued jockey Holly Andrew fell heavily from Bronsteel. She was able to walk to the ambulance under her own steam, and she was taken to hospital with a suspected dislocated shoulder.