Progressive galloper Pareanui Bay claimed the honours at Te Rapa on Monday when he overcame a torrid trip in transit to capture the Group 2 James And Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m).
The Tony Pike-trained son of Lonhro had created a huge impression with a gritty win in maiden company on debut at the venue earlier in the month but met a field of quality three-year-olds for his attempt at Monday’s feature event.
Although well fancied as the +420 second favourite behind Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) winner Mana Nui (+190), his army of supporters had their hearts in their mouths as rider Michael McNab was forced to sit three-wide throughout after being posted out there from a wide barrier.
McNab didn’t panic and eased his mount into a challenging position on the home bend before joining issue with eventual runner-up Meritable and powering home to win by a long neck with Dark Destroyer finishing off strongly from last on the corner to take third.
“We knew he was very good but to step up to the quality he met today was very special,” Pike said.
“They didn’t go overly quick, but he was stuck out wide for most of the trip, which didn’t help him much.
“He still wants to float around at the business end and takes a little while to really knuckle down, so we know there is improvement in him, which is very exciting for the future.”
Pike will now take a few days to think about the immediate future for the horse but expressed his disappointment that the chance to place a late entry into the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 6 wasn’t available after late entries for the race closed on 20 October.
“I want to see how he comes through the race before I have a chat with his owners about what we do with him next,” he said.
“A race like the Levin Classic (Group 1 1600m) during the summer could be a race to look at although our first thoughts were to put in a late nomination for the 2000 Guineas if he went like we thought he could today.
“I was pretty surprised when I found out that late noms had closed last week and that option has been taken away from us.
“It doesn’t make much sense to me to have such an early date in the race conditions as in my opinion you want the best three-year-olds competing in your Group One races and this race today is one of the races that is used to determine whether you head south or not.
“I’m not sure there have been any reminders or communication to those trainers who may have been considering a late nom so I would think the process needs to be looked at fairly closely for next year.”
The victory brought up a winning treble and stakes double over the weekend for Pareanui Bay’s owners and breeders, Brent and Cherry Taylor from Trelawney Stud, who had been successful with Vamos Bebe at Matamata on Saturday before Cheaperthandivorce captured the Group 3 Thompson Handicap (1600m) at Trentham on Sunday.
The couple bred Pareanui Bay from their Flying Spur mare, Okahu Bay who won the Group 3 South Australian Fillies Classic (2500m) and comes from a family that includes Group 1 Easter Handicap (1600m) winner Calveen.
A two-year-old Savabeel half-brother to Pareanui Bay will be offered through the Woburn Farm draft at next month’s New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale that commences on November 17.