After strong-finishing seconds in his two previous starts, a change of tactics brought a deserved breakthrough for New Zealand-bred colt Castillian in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Handicap (1500m) at Moonee Valley.
A smart maiden winner at Warracknabeal in late July, the son of Per Incanto stepped up into city class and produced eye-catching late runs to be runner-up at Flemington on August 6 and at Moonee Valley on August 20.
Stepping up in trip for Saturday’s 1500m race, the Patrick Payne-trained Castillian charged out of the gates to take a clear lead into the first corner.
Steadied through the middle stages of the race by rider Mark Zahra, Castillian quickened again at the home turn and soon opened up a commanding lead.
Fellow Kiwi-bred Major Beel finished strongly to reduce the margin in the final 100m, but Castillian crossed the line three-quarters of a length ahead.
“Speaking to Paddy this morning, he said the horse is fit now,” Zahra said. “In a small field with the rail back to true, he sort of left it up to me. But he said, ‘If you jump good and you want to go forward, so be it.’ He was able to get across and do it quite easily.
“He’s a three-year-old in form in the spring. Paddy’s got the horse going really well, he seems to be going better each start, and Paddy’s got a good handle on his horses, so I’ll leave it to him.”
From six starts, Castillian has now recorded two wins and two second placings, earning $151,375 in stakes.
“It was a beautiful ride by Mark today, he said he’d try to get the lead if he could and he did a great job,” part-owner Glen Barker said.
“Now I think we’ll just let him progress through the grades and see how he goes. Hopefully the Stutt Stakes (Group 2, 1600m) might be a nice race for him in a few weeks.”
Castillian was bred by Little Avondale and is by the headline act of their stallion roster, Per Incanto.
The colt’s dam Anaween has been represented by three named foals, all of them winners in Australia, with Castillian joined by older siblings Tympanist (by Belardo, three wins) and Icantoo (by Per Incanto, one win).
Anaween was herself a winner over 900 metres, and she comes from the family of Group One winners Keeper, Metal Bender and Amarelinha. Little Avondale bought the daughter of More Than Ready for $26,000 at the 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock National Weanling, Broodmare and Mixed Bloodstock Sale.
Since producing Castillian in the spring of 2019, Anaween went to Savabeel to produce a filly in 2020 and colt in 2021, then returned to Per Incanto.