The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman stable were expected to play a prominent role in Saturday’s Listed Piazza D’Oro Auckland Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie, with five runners down to contest the two-year-old feature. Whilst the pair ultimately provided the quinella in the event it was the little-fancied Rhaegar who upset the applecart when he downed well-favoured stablemate Long Jack at odds of better than $30 on the tote.
Having finished well back in his first two raceday starts, Rhaegar had indicated the penny may have dropped with a stylish win over 850m at the Waipa trials on Monday. Taking confidence from the run, the Pluck gelding travelled easily in midfield for rider Michael McNab as pacemakers King Midas and All The Rage set a solid tempo up front. McNab angled the rangy customer into a challenging position approaching the home corner before making his bid with 300m to run.
Rhaegar quickly put paid to third favourite Jennifer Eccles before holding out the stern challenge of Long Jack in the closing stages to win by a neck at the post. Baker admitted the winner had left he and his co-trainer Andrew Forsman scratching their heads at times with him. “Rhaegar always shown plenty but he’s been the most difficult and disappointing horse on raceday,” he said. “We put blinkers on him and took him to the trials last Monday where he won from the back. “We had to get him to run genuinely as he was very disappointing and we were scratching our heads as he had shown plenty on the track. “It was a very good win today. “The second horse (Long Jack) is a seriously good horse, he got home well and is a good three-year- old in the making. “I think they both should have good futures.”
McNab was confident of a good run once he saw the trial win by his mount. “Just shows how good Murray (Baker) is eh,” he said. “He trialled really good on Monday and Murray said it had just been the heavy track (at his last start) and when he trialled good with the blinkers on, I just had to steer him around. “He did everything spot on and he did it easy as he was coasting the last bit. “He was strong and hard to pull up so going forward to his three-year-old (season) he has a bit of upside.”
Rhaegar is out of the Australian bred mare Grand Lady, who is a half-sister to Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) winner Rena’s Lady and was a $60,000 purchase by Forsman from the Lansdowne Park draft during the Book 2 session at the 2018 National Yearling Sale at Karaka. Like star former stablemate Jon Snow, Rhaegar is named after a character in the hit series Game Of Thrones, and is raced by the Rhaegar Syndicate that includes Jon Snow’s owners, the Zame family, along with Forsman and his parents.