A barnstorming late run carried progressive New Zealand mare Carolina Reaper to her biggest career victory when she took out the Group 3 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) at Pukekohe on Saturday.
The four-year-old daughter of Vespa was warmly supported on her lead-up form which included wins in two of her last four starts and with only 53kgs on her back she looked well placed in the race for trainers Graham Richardson and Rogan Norvall.
Rider Ashvin Goindasamy allowed her to find her feet in the early stages as Clever Ruds set up a solid pace out in front.
Still well back on the corner the mare overcame a home straight bump with outsider On The Rocks to let down powerfully in the last 150m as she claimed eventual runner-up Brando and third placed True Enough to register her fourth win from just 14 starts.
Richardson, who had been apprehensive of getting his charge into the final field for the contest on her 79 rating, was thrilled to see her pick up her first black-type success.
“She did us proud and I think she is a very good horse in the making,” he said.
“I had always thought she was a stakes winner in waiting, but to do it at her 14th start is a lot quicker than I thought it would be.
“She did deserve her place in the field on talent, but her rating had me worried and I guess now we will have to see how the handicapper treats her and what rating penalty she gets for the victory.
“What I do know is that she is now going straight out for a good spell and she will be a bigger and better horse in the spring.”
Richardson, who shares in the ownership of the mare, noted that the only disappointment was that another co-owner in Craig Leishman couldn’t be on track to take in the win.
“There is a great bunch of people in her including Craig Leishman, who is also a part-owner of Sharp ‘N’ Smart who won the Champagne Stakes (Listed, 1600m) earlier in the day,” he said.
“Craig lives in Auckland but couldn’t make it today as I think there was some sort of incident on the motorway which meant he couldn’t get here and had to turn around and watch them at home.
“I don’t think it will be her last win so there will be many more opportunities to see her in person for all the owners.
“Depending on how she spells I’ve got a race like the Tarzino Trophy (Group 1, 1400m) at Hastings in the spring as a target for her, as I think she is a Group One horse of the future.
“She is such a lovely mare to do anything with, just laid back and a mare that just loves being around people, so she is a favourite at home and we are really looking forward to her next campaign.”
By Group 1 Diamond Stakes (1600m) winner Vespa, Carolina Reaper is out of the Fastnet Rock mare Bonney Pepper and was purchased by Richardson for NZD$12,000 out of the Wellfield Lodge draft during the Book 2 sale at Karaka in 2019.