Leith Innes celebrates a dominant front-running victory by Saint Emilion in the New Zealand Stakes.
Iron horse Saint Emilion had the day in the sun that he richly deserved at Ellerslie this afternoon, handing his trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman a third Gr. 1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes victory in the last four years.
The Cambridge pair won the $200,000 weight-for-age feature with Sakhee’s Soldier in 2015, and with quality mare Lizzie L’Amour last year. Multiple Group One winner Lizzie L’Amour was the $1.80 favourite to defend her crown this afternoon, but instead her stablemate stole the show with an unstoppable front-running performance.
With Leith Innes in the saddle, Saint Emilion led for every step of the 2000-metre journey. The grey son of Mastercraftsman had his rivals in trouble a long way from home, and he crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length ahead of the fast-finishing Darscape Princess. The time was 2:02.47.
It was Saint Emilion’s 13th win from 36 starts, with total prize-money now in excess of $388,000.
“Talk about special moments in life,” said former Wellington Racing Club president Mike Brown, whose late wife Robyn Horton bred the gelding and owns him in her estate.
“We expected him to be in front today, but I’m not sure we expected him to be in front all the way! I need to sit down and gather my composure.
“He was bred by my late wife, and she took him to the sales. A bid of $75,000 wasn’t enough, and she took him back home with her. Unfortunately she didn’t get to see him race, but he’s certainly honouring her memory. We’re over the moon.”
Forsman’s delight over the victory was tempered by the unplaced finishes by Lizzie L’Amour and Nicoletta.
“The mares were both disappointing, and possibly victims of quite a hard track that has dried out throughout the afternoon,” he said.
“But it worked out perfectly for Saint Emilion. When he’s in that sort of mood, he’s a very hard horse to catch. He’s been thereabouts in quite a few big races, so he deserved to win one. It all fell into place for him today.
“We’ll get him home now and see how he comes through it before making any other plans, but we could potentially look at Sydney or Brisbane.”
Saint Emilion has an excellent record at Ellerslie, with 11 starts at the Auckland track for five wins and a placing. His previous biggest win came in the Gr. 3 OMF Stakes over the same course and distance in November 2016.
Marton trainer Fraser Auret was thrilled with the performance of the runner-up, Darscape Princess. The four-year-old was racing in Rating 65 grade as recently as December, but had won all of her last four including the Listed Wairarapa Breeders’ Stakes.
“We’re very, very proud,” Auret said. “We’ve always thought she looked like a top-class mare in the making, and you’ve got to give them the exposure and experience at this level. She’s only a four-year-old, so I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead.”
Bred and raced by John Bromley’s Bromley Bloodstock Ltd, she has now had 12 starts for five wins, three placings and more than $125,000 in stakes. She is a half-sister to stablemate Sensible Princess, who won the Gr. 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes in November.
The third placegetter was Authentic Paddy, who won the Gr. 1 Zabeel Classic over the same course and distance on Boxing Day.