At home he’s an eccentric whose curling lips make him seem like he’s got a trunk. On the racetrack, though, Elephant is one of the more promising gallopers in New Zealand, unbeaten in two starts, the latest of which came in the Rating 65 Stella Artois 1500 Championship Qualifier (1400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Elephant is prepared by Emma-Lee and David Browne in Cambridge for an ownership group that includes themselves and Elephant’s breeder Andrew Fowler, who gave the horse his pachydermic name. “He said he always wanted to call a horse Elephant, and he curls his lip at every chance, every time you look at him,” Emma-Lee Browne said. “They always say he’s got a trunk like an elephant. He’s always smiling at everyone.”
The son of Shocking won his debut at Tauranga in March by leading all the way, much to the surprise of his connections. But in his first start since, Elephant stormed home from well back in the field on Saturday in a fast-run race to beat My World by two lengths, a performance more akin to the way he’s performed in his trials. “This time it was all about teaching him to settle because he didn’t know anything, he’s pretty raw. I thought he settled beautifully on Saturday,” Browne said.
Elephant is nominated for the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham, though Browne said that was made partly because nominations for that race opened very early. The immediate plan is to look towards something at the Ellerslie Christmas-New Year carnival, possibly with a race in between for the four-year-old half-brother to Group 3 winner Melt.
“It’s very early days – he’s won a maiden and a Rating 65. It’s pretty exciting the way he did it, but you never know, he’s still got to get through the grades,” Browne said. “We’ve always thought he does things really well, but we try not to get too far ahead of ourselves.”
The Brownes have made a fast start to the 2020-21 season. In five years of training in partnership, the husband-and-wife team haven’t surpassed 10 victories in a season, but with only a third of the season gone their total is already up to eight.
Amongst those winners this season is two-win four-year-old Gone West, who was well backed in the Rating 74 Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Qualifier 2100 at Ellerslie on Saturday, but he missed the start and beat only three home. “He also got to the inside, which he doesn’t really like,” Browne said. “I wasn’t too disappointed. He tried to run home okay. So far he’s pulled up really well – he felt like he hadn’t had a run.”
The Brownes have three horses accepted for the Rotorua meeting on Wednesday, although Craftyaffair would require a number of scratchings as the fifth emergency in a rating 74 contest. The other two, Ragnarok and Maktastic, are both Group 1 New Zealand Derby-nominated three-year-olds making their debuts. All three runners are also nominated for New Plymouth on Thursday, with the stable keen to keep their options open.
Ragnarok, a son of Tavistock who cost $160,000 at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales and comes from the Eight Carat family, is entered in a 1560m maiden race at Rotorua. “His trials have been quite good, but he’s an out-and-out stayer who needs a bit more ground,” Browne said. “Hopefully he has a nice run on Wednesday and he learns how to run home properly, but if he ran a place it wouldn’t totally surprise me. We’d like to target some of the 3-year-old staying races.”