Class prevailed at Trentham on Saturday when last-start Group 3 Wellington Cup (3200m) winner Waisake collected another feature race at the venue with a gritty victory in the Listed Fasttrack Insurance 5K New Zealand St. Leger (2600m).
Unsighted since taking out the Cup in late January with a booming late run, the Allan Sharrock-trained six-year-old had his normal race tactics turned upside down when apprentice rider Hazel Schofer found herself trapped wide throughout the early stages of the race.
Schofer used her initiative to roll forward and sit outside leader Lincoln King as the pair set up a steady gallop out in front. Schofer knew she was on the superior stayer and poured on the pressure approaching the home turn.
Waisake responded gamely and shot two lengths clear before maintaining a solid gallop to outstay his rivals, with Skyphyta and Beaudz Well closing off well to finish in the minor placings.
Sharrock admitted he had his concerns when his charge was trapped three-wide, but praised Schofer for taking matters into her own hands during the mid-stages of the contest.
“You can’t sit three-wide for two bends, but he found his comfort zone and was clearly the best horse in the race,” Sharrock said.
“It’s what you want to see from an improving apprentice when they have to make a decision in a race.
“He hadn’t raced for six weeks but I had done as much as I could with him to get him race fit and in the end, he was authoritative.”
Sharrock advised his charge would now head to the spelling paddock before returning for a campaign that could see him target the Group 3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) in November as well as returning to defend his Wellington Cup title in January.
Schofer could hear Sharrock’s words ringing in her ears as she made her decision to go forward aboard Waisake at the 1600m mark.
“Allan always tells me not to get caught three-wide and if you do, roll forward,” she said.
“We were going easy enough, so I let him cruise and just sit off the leader.
“I know he stays, so I got on my bike early and then just let him roll down the straight.
“He always digs in, so you just have to make sure you get going early on him.”
A $28,000 purchase by Sharrock from the Ainsley Downs Stud draft at the 2016 Festival Yearling Sale at Karaka, Waisake has now won seven of his 24 starts and just under $250,000 in prizemoney.