Matamata visitor Cognito put his cards on the table for a Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) bid next month with an impressive victory in the Inglewood Stud Guineas Trial (1400m) on Saturday.
The Mark Walker-trained runner trekked south to Riccarton after being narrowly defeated by Sydney-bound three-year-old Sharp ‘N' Smart at Ruakaka last month following an impressive debut win over 1200m at Taupo.
Sent out a +150 favourite on the strength of his lead-up form, the son of So You Think was patiently ridden by Jason Laking, who never panicked after the pair were pocketed behind runners in the six-horse field.
Laking drove his mount through a narrow gap with 200m to run and forged clear to win by a length from Diss Is Dramatic and fellow Te Akau Racing runner Marlborough Bay.
Walker admitted he was feeling a little nervous early in the run home but once his charge found the gap, he was thrilled with the turn of foot he showed.
“It was heart in the mouth stuff there at the 200m but once he got the gap he stretched really nicely,” Walker said.
“To be fair, he probably should be unbeaten as he got no favours at Ruakaka last time and only went down a nose, so it was good to see him get that touch of luck when he needed it today.
“He is a lovely horse who I think will just eat up the ground once he steps up to a mile.
“His main aim is the 2000 Guineas, but before then he can have a go over the mile with a run in the War Decree Stakes (Group 3, 1600m) here at Riccarton later this month.”
Bookmakers were quick to tighten Cognito into the +400 Fixed Odds second favourite for the 2000 Guineas behind stablemate Dynastic who currently sits at a +280 quote.
Raced by the Te Akau Think Ahead Racing Partnership, Cognito was purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis in conjunction with Andrew Williams Bloodstock at the Gold Coast Yearling Sale in June 2021 for AUD$165,000 and comes from a family full of stakes performers including 2012 Group 1 AJC Derby (2400m) winner Ethiopia.
The victory was the second on the day for Walker after handy two-year-old Rhetorical showed the benefit of raceday experience when she gained the upper hand in a dour battle with runner-up Gwynver in the Nobby Bussell Memorial 2YO (800m).
The daughter of Snitzel and Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) placegetter Xpression was the only runner in the five-horse field who had seen raceday action previously, having finished a game fifth off a wide run at Wanganui last month.
Apprentice Joe Kamaruddin had her situated nicely outside pacemaker Yak Sha throughout before she displayed her superiority by drawing away from Gwynver in the final 100m after the pair had staged a tight tussle to that point.
“She will have learned a lot from both her runs as she didn't have a trial before she went to Wanganui where she got caught wide and again today, she was wide early on before getting into her rhythm,” Walker said.
“She showed plenty of fight and as long as she pulls up well, she will be aimed at the two-year-old races coming up down here.
“The main aim is the Welcome Stakes (Listed, 1000m) on the middle day of Cup Week in November.”
Ellis went to NZD$270,000 to purchase the filly out of the Haunui Farm draft during the Book 1 Sale at Karaka back in March.