The sensational summer form of Robbie Patterson's New Plymouth stable kept on rolling on Saturday with his first win in the Group 3 Taranaki Cup (1800m) on his home track.
Contribute's Cup victory was the 36th win of the season for Patterson, who now sits in fourth place on the New Zealand trainers' premiership. He also saddled unbeaten three-year-old Shameless Boy to win an earlier race on Saturday's card.
Patterson's runners have earned more than $1.6 million, with six black-type victories headed by Puntura's treble in the Group 3 Coupland's Bakeries Mile (1600m), Group 2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) and Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m). Mary Louise won the Group 3 Wellington Cup (3200m) and One Bold Cat took out the Group 3 Counties Cup (2100m).
“It's been an amazing run, I can't believe it,” Patterson said on Saturday. “I just hope it isn't finished yet!
“Everyone always wants to win their home-town Cup, so it was very special to win that race today. It's amazing, really.”
Contribute went into Saturday's $120,000 race as the winner of four of her 19 career starts, including two in Queensland in August and September for Sunshine Coast trainers Stewart and Taylah Mackinnon.
The six-year-old Contributer mare closed out her Australian stint with an unplaced finish at Eagle Farm in late October, then went out for a spell before returning to action with an eye-catching fifth in the Douro Cup (1600m) at Trentham on January 20.
Saturday's Taranaki Cup was just the second start of a new preparation for Contribute, and she rose to the occasion as the +400 favourite with top horse racing bookmakers.
Ridden by Patterson's apprentice Ciel Butler, Contribute settled in eighth place behind a fast pace set by tearaway leader Masetto.
The defending Taranaki Cup champion Colorado Star dragged the field up behind that rival and hit the front soon after turning for home, but Contribute was looming ominously wider out on the track. Butler got her balanced up and then got her to change gears, striding forward and taking command with 200m remaining.
Fellow Taranaki mare Hi Yo Sass Bomb chased bravely down the outside, but Contribute was going too strongly and held her out by half a length. Hi Yo Sass Bomb finished second, two and a half lengths ahead of the third-placed Saint Alice.
It was the first black-type win for Butler, who replaced Craig Grylls on the 53kg lightweight runner on the morning of the race.
“I'm absolutely rapt for Ciel,” Patterson said. “Craig was going to take the ride, but he just wasn't able to make the weight this morning. He's been struggling with a bit of a virus lately, so that's not his fault.
“But Ciel thoroughly deserves this. She does all the work on this horse every day, and she had her in exactly the right place today.”
Bred and raced by Ross Bellingham and Adrianne Gemmell, Contribute has now had 20 starts for five wins, seven placings and $184,755 in stakes.
“This horse has done a bloody good job,” Patterson said. “She got back from Aussie and had a bit of time off. She ran really well over a mile first-up, then went straight into this good race a couple of weeks later. It was great to see her produce that sort of performance.
“We'll have to try to chase more black type from here. A race like the Manawatu Breeders' Stakes (Group 3, 2000m) might be a good option a bit further down the track.”