Underrated New Zealand galloper Belle Plaisir sprang a minor upset when she picked up her first victory at stakes level when taking out the Listed James Bull Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m) on her home track at Awapuni.
The Lucy Tanner-trained and part-owned four-year-old had won her previous start over a similar distance (1550m) at the venue but was ignored by punters for Saturday’s feature, being sent out at odds of better that +2200.
Given an economical trip in behind the speed by rider Kate Hercock, the daughter of Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir stalked pacemaker Quiz Kid throughout, before being angled off the fence to lodge her challenge at the 300m.
Quiz Kid refused to lie down in the run home, but Belle Plaisir carried plenty of momentum as she swept past in the final stages to win by just over a length, with Hartley battling on strongly to take third.
The win was the second at stakes level for Tanner after Flemington provided her first when he took out the 2012 Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m), but this one carried a good deal of emotion for the permit-to-train license holder.
“That was just so exciting and quite emotional for me,” Tanner said.
“While I have a job outside of training, horses are my life and to win this race today is very special.
“She (Belle Plaisir) is a very very good horse, who hasn’t had a lot of luck with bad draws and the like.
“She won nicely at her last start and that gave her plenty of confidence, so I was expecting a good run from her even though most of the critics seemed to have written her off.
“Everything fell into place and to get a stakes victory after twice being placed fourth in Group Three company says so much about her quality and the ability she has.”
Tanner owns the mare in partnership with friend and racing partner Lance Hickman after Hickman purchased her for $32,000 out of the Fairdale Stud draft during the Book 2 sale at Karaka in 2018.
“Lance and I have known each other for more than 25 years and we have struck up an excellent relationship with the Fell family, who bred this mare,” she said.
“I actually have three by Proisir in the stable at the moment and I really like them, although they do take time to mature.
“Because I don’t train for anyone else, it gives me the opportunity to be patient with them and try to get the best out of them.
“The plan all along has been to get a black type win with Belle Plaisir as she comes from a very nice family, including her half-brother Heavens Keep who won eight races for us.
“Now she has done that she can go out for a decent break before I get her back for the spring, where I think she will be even better than she is now.”
Belle Plaisir is out of the Zeditave mare Eden and hails from an extended family that includes American Grade One winner Garthorn and Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) winner Chlorophyll.