Quality New Zealand performer Prise De Fer put a week of uncertainty behind him in style at Riccarton on Saturday, taking his career earnings past NZD$500,000 with a record-breaking victory in the Group 3 Coca-Cola Canterbury Gold Cup (2000m).
The Savabeel gelding’s plans had been thrown into disarray in the early part of the week when a Cook Strait ferry crossing was cancelled, leaving weekend plans up in the air and entries being made for both the Canterbury Gold Cup and the Group 3 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) at Pukekohe on the same day.
Another ferry crossing was secured later in the week and Prise De Fer made it to Christchurch in time for Saturday, where his rating of 102 towered over his 11 rivals and the weight-for-age conditions were firmly in his favour.
Aided by a well-timed ride by Jason Laking, Prise De Fer lived up to that high rating and +140 favouritism with an emphatic victory.
Laking was in no hurry in the early part of the race, settling Prise De Fer well back in eighth place as front-runner Seriously faced sustained pressure from Camino Rocoso and Original Gangster.
After creeping forward along the rail as the field came down the side of the track, Laking made his move at the home turn, angling off the fence and finding clear air at the top of the long Riccarton straight.
Prise De Fer took care of the rest, changing gears and striding to the front with more than 200 metres to run. In-form mare Irish Girl gave her all to try to stay with him, but Prise De Fer always had the upper hand and steadily edged ahead.
He crossed the finish line with a length to spare over the fast-finishing Asathought, stopping the clock at 2:00.03 – a new race record for the Canterbury Gold Cup, beating Commissionaire’s 2:00.32 in 1983.
Saturday’s win was the ninth of Prise De Fer’s 32-start career and his third at Group level, following on from the Group 2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) and Group 3 Taranaki Cup (1800m), both in 2020. He has also been a Group One placegetter in the Captain Cook Stakes (1600m), Livamol Classic (2040m), Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and WFA Classic (1600m).
The consistent six-year-old has now earned NZD$537,525 in stakes for the Te Akau En Garde Syndicate.
“The owners are continuing to be rewarded for their patience and it was another good win,” trainer Mark Walker said.
“I still think he’s capable of another really good season as a seven-year-old. He’s been well looked after.
“It was a lovely ride by Jason Laking, who continues to serve the stable very well when called upon. He presented the horse at the right time and it was a confident display.”
Laking has now ridden a dozen winners in the Te Akau Racing tangerine, most notably last month’s Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) with Belle En Rouge.
Prise De Fer was a NZD$100,000 purchase by David Ellis from Trelawney Stud’s draft at the 2017 Premier Yearling Sale at Karaka. His Riccarton triumph capped a satisfying day for Ellis and the Te Akau team, who also had black-type placings with Brando in the Easter Handicap and Belle Of The Ball in the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Warstep Stakes (2000m).
“It was a brilliant thrill to win the Canterbury Gold Cup and a great training decision by Mark, picking out the race and stepping him from 1400 metres to win so well over 2000 metres,” Ellis said.
“He had previously proved himself over 2040 metres in the Livamol, and it was good to see him score a really good middle-distance win.
“Mark has had a great return to training for Te Akau, and it’s no surprise he’s won nine premierships in his career.
“I’d like to thank Andrew Carston for looking after our horses down there. He’s one of the best stable foremen that Te Akau has ever had, and he’s doing a really good job of training in his own right.
“In the race prior, Belle Of The Ball produced a super effort for second in the Warstep Stakes, and it may have only been the outside draw that beat her. And Brando, who had to give the winner four and a half kilos, ran a great race for second in the Easter Handicap at Pukekohe, so we’ve had another good day.”