Lightweight runner Polzeath upset the applecart at Ellerslie on Saturday when he took out the Group 2 Joe McDonald Avondale Cup (2400m). The lightly raced seven-year-old was having his first attempt in stakes company and his first run beyond 2100m in the Group 2 staying feature but handled both challenges with aplomb under the urgings of apprentice Jasmine Fawcett.
Fawcett took the initiative from barrier rise as she sent Polzeath forward to nab the trail behind the early pacemakers. In a truly run race the pair maintained their position against the rail before angling into the clear to hit the front at the 300m. Polzeath shot clear of the chasing pack and despite being hotly challenged in the final 50m had enough in reserve to hold out the fast finishing Platinum Invador with topweight Etah James nabbing third from pacemaker Masetto.
Co-trainer Moira Murdoch, who prepares the Pentire gelding in partnership with daughter Kieran, was delighted with the victory. “He’s just an honest little Pentire horse with a whole lot of first-time owners who are all here today,” she said. “They are thrilled to bits and delighted to see him go so well. “It was a lovely ride because she was on the fence and I was thinking oh no, but she popped him out when she needed to. “I think we were aided by that horse (Masetto) going strong and when we popped out from behind him, we were right there. “He dug his little toes in and away he went.”
The victory also marked a special occasion for Fawcett with the win being her first at Group level. “I won my first race on a Pentire and now I’ve won my first Group race on another Pentire so it’s a great moment,” she said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, got the run of the race and he is the most genuine horse I’ve ever ridden. “They wanted me outside the leader but he jumped so good I had no option but to go to the fence. “He was comfortable and had a lot of energy turning for home and he found the line really strong.”
Runner-up Platinum Invador lost no admirers after finishing powerfully from the rear of the field as be builds to a start in the Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) on March 7 where he is now the outright favourite at $3.80 in the Fixed Odds market ahead of Australian raider Azuro at $5.