The Shaun Phelan-trained Hit The Road Jack showed his staying prowess when landing a captivating edition of the Ruakaka Cup (2200m) on Saturday, providing his conditioner with his first solo training success.
There was no loitering in the 2200m contest, with eventual runner-up Chevron setting a strong early tempo and when the pace slackened in the back straight, apprentice jockey Elen Nicholas was quick to urge Hit The Road Jack to circle the field and take up the role of pacemaker.
The six-year-old son of Jakkalberry refused to yield, going on to score by a length-and-a-half from Chevron, with topweight River Run finishing a game third a further three lengths away, with his 61.5kg impost proving too great in the strongly-run race.
Having previously trained in partnership with father Craig, multi-talented horseman Phelan was delighted to see Hit The Road Jack notch the fourth victory of his 29 start career, which also features 12 placings.
“We had a plan there and he is a tough staying horse so you can do those sorts of things on him,” Phelan said.
“The New Zealand Cup (Group 3, 3200m) at Riccarton in November is the obvious race for him so we might just tick away over the spring and he can go second or third up into that after having a week or so off along the way.”
Nicholas, who has been aboard Hit The Road Jack for all of his four wins was pleased her plan to take the race by the scruff of the neck paid dividends.
“He's a quirky fella so it may have looked like a weird ride but that's how he goes best,” she said.
“He was off the bridle until the 1400m and it was near impossible to get him going. When he did get on the bridle he started over-racing, so I thought it was quite a small field and there won't be many opportunities to ride him like that, so I took the initiative on him.
“He is annoying as he gallops so slowly at home and you think there is something wrong with him then he will drop you on the way back to the stable so he can be a handful when he wants to be.”
Bred by Novara Park Stud principal Luigi Muollo under his Explosive Breeding banner, Hit The Road Jack is by the stud's late stallion Jakkalberry, a noted stamina influence.
The chestnut gelding is out of the ten-race winner Ististar who numbered the Group 3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m) amongst her four stakes victories.