Although he playfully describes the talented two-year-old with the hard to pronounce name as “a bit of a clown”, trainer Carl Henderson knows he has some serious horsepower on his hands with impressive Ellerslie winner, Atullibigeal.
The rangy son of Street Boss provided a glimpse of the sort of motor he has when defeating well regarded individuals Marchand and Lebanese Trader with a degree of arrogance as he led all-the-way over 1300m on Saturday.
Taken straight to the front by rider Andrew Calder, Atullibigeal looked to have the situation well in hand throughout, booting away when challenged in the home straight for a convincing victory.
Henderson had been confident of a good showing from his charge after some sparkling trackwork during the week, but still held his breath a little as the field entered the barrier.
“At his first start at Te Aroha he was late scratched at the gates when he played up,” Henderson said. “I think he was just being a bit of a clown, as he thinks he is pretty cool and there is no nastiness or anything like that to him.
“He’s a big rangy type and is still pretty raw-boned, but he’s got a motor there and we think he could be a Derby type next season, as he has plenty of ability.
“Andrew did the right thing on Saturday as we had thought Lebanese Trader was the horse to beat and when he didn’t want the lead, Andrew took it up and he dictated to them from there.
“His work during the week on wet ground had been excellent, so I didn’t have any worries about that and the 1300m was right up his alley.”
Henderson has his sights set on the Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie on April 24 as the next target for Atullibigeal, although with the way his phone has been ringing with offers to buy the horse, nothing is set in stone.
“We’re thinking about the Champagne Stakes for him as the mile should suit him nicely,” he said. “He came through Saturday really well and the three weeks between races is ideal.
“The phone has been running hot with offers and he is for sale, but he does have a pretty hefty price tag on him.
“We’ve been fielding offers on him since his first trial win, but his owners want to get through the Champagne Stakes and they aren’t just going to give him away.”
Atullibigeal is raced by Hong Kong businessman Ben Kwok and members of the Mackay family who operate Leanach Lodge, after the horse was passed in during the 2020 National Yearling Sale at Karaka when he failed to meet his reserve.
“I really liked him as a yearling, but he was passed in at Karaka,” Henderson said. “He was owned by Ben Kwok, who stayed in him after selling three quarters of him to Ross Mackay and members of his family.
“We’ve always rated him so what he is doing now is really just getting him educated.
“We originally thought of setting him for the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Group 1, 1400m), but when he missed that Te Aroha run, we had to change tack.
“He has still got plenty to learn as he gawked around a fair bit on Saturday, but the raw material is there and once he matures and puts it all together, I think he could be a very good horse.”