With a combined winning margin of 23 lengths in his last two runs you could be forgiven for believing trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott have a potential superstar on their hands in the form of staying talent Divine Duke.
A conversation with O’Sullivan quickly establishes that is not quite the case and that at times the Matamata conditioner is left embarrassed by the Bachelor Duke six-year-old who set tongues wagging when he ran away and hid from his rating 65 rivals over 2100m at Te Rapa on Saturday.
“Without a word of a lie, he would be the worst looking horse in our stable and I get a little embarrassed when he’s out there parading,” O’Sullivan said.
“He’s like a woolly yak even in the summer and certainly won’t win any beauty contests. Mind you when they can win like the way he has in his last two races then you tend to be a little more forgiving.”
Although the comments are made with tongue firmly in cheek O’Sullivan is still shaking his head at the improvement the horse has shown in this campaign after a mediocre start to his career.
Successful in two of his first 25 starts Divine Duke finally hit his straps when he bolted in by eight lengths at Tauranga to kick-off the new season. He eclipsed that effort on Saturday when he came from last at the 600m to storm clear in the hands of Taiki Yanagida with daylight his closest rival when he hit the finish line 15 lengths clear of the field.
“When we first got him we thought he could make a decent handicapper once he matured,” he said.
“He has been very weak and slow to mature so we didn’t really know if he would ever come right.
“Even as a six-year-old now he still has plenty of strengthening to come so he might not reach his peak for a wee while yet.
“We got to the stage where we put him over the hurdles to see if that might sharpen him up, but he still ran last in his trial. Since then he has had a second and two wins so maybe it did the trick.
“That is really the only thing we have done differently with him, so it could be the key, but honestly I just don’t know.
“While he is in form we will try and keep him going, so we have a rating 72 2100m earmarked for him back at Te Rapa next month.”
O’Sullivan also reported that star galloper Charles Road had pulled up well from his first-up effort in the Gr.2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (1200m) where he was seen making up good ground in the concluding stages of the first start in his new spring campaign.
Divine Duke was bred by The Oaks Stud, and was sold at the 2014 Select Sale for $40,000.
– NZ Racing Desk