Strapping two-year-old colt Dapper has confirmed his place in the Doubletree By Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Pukekohe on January 21 with a comfortable victory in the Norwegian Park 1200 at the same venue on Sunday.
Dapper has now won two of his five starts and he also boasts a placing in the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m).
Prepared at Otaki by Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard, Dapper sat just off the speed under jockey Ryan Elliot and relished the lengthy Pukekohe straight. He defeated the Mark Walker-trained Believe In Magic by half a length, with race favourite Farravallo four lengths away in third.
Benner and Wynyard are no strangers to Karaka Million success, having prepared Vespa to take out the million dollar feature in 2014, while Touche (2013) and Kingman (2016) both placed in the juvenile feature.
“He is quite a gross sort of colt and we had a horse called Touche who was pretty similar,” Wynyard said.
“We did the same thing with him, running him two weeks before. It just tightens them up and now we can take him home and we don't need to do much to get there.
“It has been a long time between runs so he is going to take improvement out of the run.
“He is big, he is very laid-back and he is always carrying too much condition whereas Vespa was very athletic and we were always trying to keep weight on him.
“They are very different horses but both pretty good.”
Wynyard was pleased to see Dapper settle behind the leaders with the experience to hold him in good stead as he takes on a full field next start.
“I was quite surprised that he jumped out of the gates first today,” Wynyard said. “He is not usually great away from the gates and he is the sort of colt that gets back and follows them around and finishes off strongly.
“That was always the plan and as always, Ryan executed it to perfection.
“He is really straight-forward and is a typical boy. Nothing worries him – he just worries about food and sleeping.”
He is a half-brother to the Listed Lightning Handicap (1200m) winner Can I Get An Amen with their dam Brianna successful in the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) and third in the Group 1 Railway Handicap (1200m).
Milan Park will present a yearling half-sister by Ocean Park at this month's Karaka Book 1 Sale.
Ladbrokes Bookmakers reacted to Dapper's Pukekohe victory by shortening him from $21 into $14 for the Karaka Million.
The market is headed by Tokyo Tycoon ($4), Trobriand ($5) and Ethereal Star ($5). The Andrew Forsman-trained Ethereal Star had an exhibition gallop between races at Pukekohe as she gets ready to target the Karaka Million in a fresh state.