An impressive training effort by Stephen Marsh saw the Cambridge trainer commence Melbourne Cup Day at Pukekohe in style, preparing a freshened Antrim Coast to victory in the Ellerslie Events 1400.
Showing promise early in his three-year-old season, Antrim Coast broke maiden status in Heavy9 conditions at Te Rapa in August before being sent for a brief spell and was rated a $7.80 third-favourite with TAB bookmakers in a compact but competitive Pukekohe field.
The seven starters broke in a muddling fashion, with Antrim Coast among the better at the hop slotting one back on the fence trailing Leroy Brown, while both of the fancied colts in Cannon Hill and Geriatrix were leisurely away, the latter travelling ungenerously for Warren Kennedy at the tail.
Joe Doyle guided Antrim Coast patiently around the home turn and eventually found clear air on the rail at the 200m, the son of Roc de Cambes responding to his urges and found a strong turn-of-foot to stretch a three-quarters-of-a-length clear at the post to Geriatrix, who scorched home late to edge out a solid Cannon Hill.
“I was very lucky, the horse in front of me wanted to get off the rail the whole way around and it was just a case of waiting for the split,” Doyle said.
“Fortunately I had the horse to go through it.”
Marsh had prepared the gelding for Tuesday’s contest with a trial at Matamata in October followed by an exhibition gallop, and was pleased to see the freshen-up pay dividends.
“We’d done enough with him (in August), he’s a big strong horse and we thought he needed a little break,” he said.
“We’re hoping to turn him into a derby horse, he’s a lovely horse with a great temperament so we have plenty to work with.
“He’s a horse I really like, we’re hoping to get him ready for probably my favourite race in the Lucia Valentina at Otaki, so that will be his next mission.”
The Gr.3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes (1400m) was named in honour of a former star in the Marsh stable, the Savabeel mare winning the three-year-old Otaki feature under his care before she relocated to Kris Lees’ Newcastle stable.
Lucia Valentina blossomed across the ditch and went on to claim multiple Group Ones in Australia, including an electric victory in the 2016 edition of the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
Pic- Race Images