Awapuni galloper Wakari upset all predictions when he held out hot favourite I Wish I Win to take out the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) at Hastings.
Punters had disregarded the chances of the three-year-old son of Vespa after he could only manage second in rating 65 company first-up at Hawera when expected to win comfortably.
Trainer Royden Bergerson didn’t buy into that sentiment and was expecting a forward showing from his charge with the benefit of that race under his belt.
Rider Kozzi Asano bounced Wakari out of the outside gate (8) to dispute the early pace before sitting half a length off speedster Dragon Biscuit. Asked to lengthen at the top of the straight, Wakari found a good kick to take control before fending off the advances of the -333.33 shot I Wish I Win to draw clear in the last 50m to win by just on half a length.
Bergerson was delighted with the win as he accepted congratulations after the race.
“His work has been really good after his last race, although people were putting him down a bit after he got beaten,” he said.
“We knew he wasn’t ready that day and needed two races to get him ready for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas (Group 2, 1400m), which is his target.
“He was tough today, really good.”
Bergerson struggled to keep his emotions in check as he described how his charge had come back from a life-threatening injury (chipped sesamoid) that he suffered after winning his second start as a two-year-old at Awapuni back in November last year.
“He’s pretty special as they were going to put him down after he won impressively at Palmerston (North) as a two-year-old,” he said.
“We sent him up to the water walker with John Trumper, who did a great job with him for two months.
“We also gelded him as we didn’t want him to come back too heavy and I think he will be hard to beat in the Guineas now.”
Asano was generous in his praise for the effort by his mount.
“He had good form coming into today and jumped really good,” he said.
“He had the widest barrier, so I had to make a decision on whether to go forward or back and I went forward where he fought really hard.
“I want to stick with him as he is a good horse.”
Bookmakers were quick to react to the win by installing Wakari as the +700 third favourite for the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 6, with I Wish I Win at the head of the market at +400.
Before then Wakari will take on his three-year-old rivals in the Group 2 Dundeel at Arrowfield Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) at Hastings on October 2.
Wakari becomes the second stakes winner for his sire Vespa, who stands at Valachi Downs Stud for a service fee of NZD$5,000 for the 2021 breeding season.