Taranaki representative Irish Flame scored provincial bragging rights when he took out the day’s feature race at New Plymouth, the New Plymouth ITM Interprovincial Challenge (1600m). The John Wheeler-trained Zed gelding defied the determined challenge of Scaglioni to score by a neck with gallant pacemaker Centre Attention fighting on doggedly to hold third.
The capable five-year-old, who holds a nomination for all three of the Group 1 features at the upcoming Bostock New Zealand Spring Racing Carnival at Hastings, had been building nicely in recent starts with punters backing him in to start second favourite for the contest. Handled confidently by Craig Grylls, Irish Flame settled nicely in midfield before commencing a move at the 600m mark. Sent to the outside by Grylls, Irish Flame hit the front in the final stages before holding out Scaglioni who had tracked him throughout.
Wheeler was a notable absentee from the meeting, although for a very good reason, as he attended his stepdaughter Krystal’s wedding in Fiji. “I’m over here for my step-daughter’s wedding but managed to hear most of the races,” Wheeler said. “It sounded like a good win by Irish Flame and he probably deserved that. “He’s always been a good horse but it wasn’t an easy task in a pretty competitive field. “He’s nominated for Hastings next week but I doubt whether he will run. “I think it is more likely that we will have a look at the Windsor Park Plate (Group 1, 1600m) on the middle day there instead.”
Irish Flame took his career record to six wins from 25 starts including the Group 3 Phoenix Park 2YO Classic (1200m) on his home track as a two-year-old.
Earlier on the programme evergreen eight-year-old Miss Lizzie continued her recent purple patch of form with a gritty all-the-way win in the open 1300m contest. The Anna Clement-trained mare collected career victory number seven, with five of those coming in her last six starts, when she defeated Cambridge raider Te Toro Pearl and race favourite Art Deco in the hands of apprentice Bridie Ansell.
Ansell made good use of her four-kilogram claim as she set Miss Lizzie alight from barrier rise and said catch me if you can to her rivals. Four lengths clear at the top of the straight, Miss Lizzie looked all-out at the 100m but dug deep to hold out her challengers and score by half a length in her open grade debut. “She has done us so proud in the last five or six starts,” Clement said. “Bride has been riding her a treat. “I was getting a little bit worried as I was thinking maybe she’s gone too early, but she has fought on well. “There won’t be too many more (starts) before she goes out and then we will bring her back for next year.”