Quality hurdler Aigne gave his rivals weight and a beating as he proved too tough in the closing stages of the Manawatu ITM Awapuni Hurdles (2900m) at Trentham.
The nine-year-old son of Sufficient had lost rider Emily Farr in their season opener over fences at Wanganui last week, but this time there was no repeat as Farr produced a patient effort to land the major share of the prize.
With Cambridge visitor English Gambler setting up a breakneck speed in front for the majority of the contest, Farr bided her time aboard the Clinton Isdale-trained runner before issuing a challenge against the inside rail with two fences to clear.
Aigne and Izymydaad set down to fight out the finish with Aigne gaining the ascendancy courtesy of a better leap at the last as he closed out the victory by a neat length with Fantasy Flight running on nicely to finish third.
Isdale, who prepared the Neil O'Dowd-owned galloper in the early stages of his career for three wins on the flat, was thrilled to see his charge back to his best.
“He is a class horse and unfortunately he had that incident last time where he lost Emily but I knew as long as pulled up okay, he was always going to improve out of it,” Isdale said.
“We started off with the horse and won three races, while we also taught him to jump.
“When Neil wanted to give him a go over the fences, we had just lost a jumper so I was pretty gun shy, so he took him over for a couple of starts before he went to Kevin Myers.
“I was having a yarn with Neil a little while back and he said to me would I like to take the horse on again, so he could finish out his career with me and I was keen to give it a go.
“He is pretty much a day-to-day proposition, so I haven't got a lot planned for him, but it would be nice to think he has another big race win in him during the next few months.”
The victory was Aigne's fifth over hurdles from just 13 starts and his second in the race after taking out the 2020 edition of the contest when trained by Kevin Myers. He has also added five wins on the flat to his career record where he has now won ten of his 53 starts and over NZD$248,000 in prizemoney.
In a disappointing field of just four runners, rider Hamish McNeill had No Tip stalking pacemaker Magic Wonder throughout before assuming control as the pair made their way onto the course proper with one fence to clear.
No Tip established a winning break at that point and cruised clear to win comfortably to register his third win from just four starts at the venue.
“He is my favourite horse so it was neat to see him go so well,” McDougal said.
“He likes Trentham although it was his first go on the steeplechase track, but he seemed to handle it pretty well.
“We've always thought he was pretty much a heavy track specialist, but last season he handled the better going quite well and he did again today as the track in the middle of the course was a lot better than the course proper.
“I was a little worried he might be a run short, but he fought on really well and that run will only help bring his fitness on a bit more.
“Paul had said before the race the main thing was to see how he would handle the figure eight circuit and he did that well so I would say he will be back here in July for the Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) as one of his main winter assignments.”
It was the sixth career win for the versatile performer who had taken out the 2019 Wellington Hurdle (3400m) and was placed in both the 2019 Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) and 2021 Great Northern Steeplechase (6200m) for Nelson, who bred and co-owns the 10-year-old son of Mettre En Jeu with his wife Carol.