Three-year-old gelding Humboldt made a winning debut at Tauranga and looks to have a bright future over ground.
Despite being a trial winner, the son of Sacred Falls was sent out the +400 outsider in the four-horse field but proved a class above when coming from last under Kelsey Hannan to win going away by a length-and-a-half from favourite Our Milly Bee.
Cambridge trainer Shaun Phelan was surprised by the lack of market support for his charge and pleased to see the gelding validate the good opinion he has of the slow-maturing type.
“He goes pretty well and I was very surprised he started as the outsider,” Phelan said.
Raced by a syndicate headed by Tommy Heptinstall and Andrew Campbell, Humboldt holds a nomination for the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) to be held on March 4 at Te Rapa but Phelan said time was against them to make the race.
“He will most likely be set for the Manawatu Classic (Group 3, 2000m). The further the better for sure,” Phelan said.
“It is a bit late for the Derby. Tommy and Andrew will be pretty keen to take him to Australia at some stage. He was the only one left with me from that draft they bought from the yearling sales, purely because he needed a bit more time.
“He was a bit weak being by Sacred Falls out of a Montjeu mare, so we gave him some time.”
While Phelan is unlikely to have a Derby runner, last start Hawke's Bay maiden winner Kahma Suitsya is on a path to the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m).
“She belongs to Tommy too. He bred her but leased her to me,” Phelan said.
“We might go to a Rating 65 next and just take the soft option and she is ready to go 2400m now.”
The Cambridge horseman has traded some of his progressive youngsters, including trial performer Lukan, who heads to the Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr stable as an OTI purchase.
“I have still got a nice Tavistock two-year-old with us called Woodbine, out of Epicurean. He was the last Tavistock bred by Tommy (Heptinstall, who raced the multiple Group One winner and sire),” Phelan said.
Meanwhile, Phelan, who mixes training and riding over the jumps, has begun his own fitness and diet regime as he builds towards a jumps season where he hopes to ride at some of the feature events in Australia, including the Warrnambool May Carnival.
“I should have gone last year. It is something I want to do and hopefully a couple of Kiwi horses will get over,” said Phelan, who was last season's champion jumps rider.
“I'd love to twist Paul Nelson's arm to get The Cossack over there, but I don't think I can but maybe we can get Kajino (trained by Diana Kennedy) over.
“I haven't had a drink since the start of January and I am on a non-sugar diet as well, so I have started early.”