Aretha grabs Hastings feature in desperate finish

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The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Aretha opened her three-year-old account in dramatic fashion when she took out the Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) in a grandstand finish. The Greg McCarthy bred and owned Charm Spirit filly was having her first run since closing out a strong juvenile campaign when finishing second behind last season’s champion two-year-old Yourdeel in the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1200m) at Awapuni in March.

Given two trials to prepare for her season opener, Aretha was well fancied in betting for Saturday’s Group 3 feature after drawing perfectly in barrier three. Rider Matt Cameron took full advantage of the situation when he bounced his mount straight to the front and controlled the pace throughout.

Sent for home by Cameron at the top of the straight, Aretha looked to have stolen a march on her rivals however with 200m to run she was tackled by the Brendan and Jo Lindsay-owned Bavella who had been trapped wide in midfield most of the way before launching a determined burst. The pair set down to a tooth and nail struggle with Aretha thrusting her head back in front as the pair hit the post locked together, taking the win by the barest of margins.

Co-trainer Andrew Forsman admitted he thought his filly was going to finish a meritorious second when Bavella loomed up to win in the closing stages. “She was very brave as I thought she was a beaten horse,” Forsman said. “She just went a little bit keenly fresh-up and I thought Bavella had her for sure, but we’ll take it.”

Forsman is eyeing a bigger prize in November’s Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) for the filly but will let her get over her first-up exertions before any decisions on her next start are made. “There’s no need to panic as we will just pick the best path through to the 1000 Guineas,” he said. “That will have taken a fair bit out of her as it was a pretty big run so we will just reassess. “She might go straight to the Sarten (Group 2, 1400m) but we will just work it out.”

The Group 2 James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) is the feature event at Te Rapa on October 28. Rider Matt Cameron was also finding it difficult to believe he had got the win after congratulating rival jockey Leith Innes after they crossed the line. “I thought Leith (on Bavella) had got me so was congratulating him, but I was head down and arse up at the line so it’s difficult to tell,” he said.

“She’s (Aretha) tough and was hanging quite badly the whole race so she had every right to get beaten. “Once the other horse came up to me, she dug deep so she is a tough little filly.” The victory was Aretha’s second from just five starts and also her second at stakes level after she was successful in the Group 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) last season.

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