Pass marks for stablemates Enzo’s Lad and Sensei at Wingatui on Thursday could be the start of a series of major attacks by Riccarton trainers Michael and Matthew Pitman, including possibly achieving a five-year goal.
Enzo’s Lad and Sensei will clash in the Listed Southern Wide Realty Hazlett Stakes (1200m), an event in which Enzo’s Lad finished seventh in the last two years before going on to win the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham in his next start. “We’ve purposely targeted the Wingatui Boxing Day meeting as the sprint has proved an ideal lead-up for the Telegraph with the last three winners of it all having come through the race,” Michael Pitman said, referring to Enzo’s Lad and before him, Signify, who was second in the Listed Wingatui event before beating Start Wondering in the 2017 Telegraph.
In each of the past two seasons Enzo’s Lad has gone into the Hazlett Stakes with last-start Riccarton wins, but this time his lead-up performance is a second-up close third behind Don Carlo and Emily Margaret at Riccarton earlier in the month. “I thought he went massive,” Pitman said. “It was an outstanding run. He had plenty of weight (60kg) and gave weight to two very handy horses.”
Enzo’s Lad’s preparation for this season’s Telegraph had been affected by his unsuccessful international ventures, to Hong Kong then England. “He was in quarantine for six weeks after he raced at Royal Ascot and we’ve been treading a fine line with him,” Pitman said. “I just hope the weather plays its part and the Wingatui track comes back from a slow7.”
Enzo’s Lad will be ridden by in-form apprentice Tina Comignaghi, while Chris Johnson will be back on Sensei. Johnson last rode Sensei when third equal to Enzo’s Lad in last season’s Telegraph after winning the Hazlett Stakes. Sensei’s two runs this campaign have resulted in an impressive win over Sheezallmine in the Listed Pegasus Stakes (1000m) on the first day of the New Zealand Cup Carnival then an unlucky second to the same northern mare four days later in the Group 3 Stewards Stakes (1200m).
“He was held up and unlucky not to win the Stewards, too,” Pitman said. “The plan with him is to hopefully get to the Telegraph then take him to Australia. “We’re putting together a team to take across the Tasman and he’ll be aimed at the Goodwood (Group 1, 1200m) in Adelaide in May. “We’re trying to protect his record to hopefully make him as a stallion. In the last 12 months he’s won two Listed races, been second in the Group 3 Stewards and run third in the Telegraph.”
As well as focusing on the Telegraph and a strong Trentham-bound squad, the Pitmans will be attempting to have two runners in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 25. Ohio Showgirl is already guaranteed a start in the $1 million feature, currently third in the order of entry, while stablemate Lovebug is 12th on the list. “I only bought four horses at Karaka last year and two of them could be running in the Karaka Million. I’m proud of that fact,” Pitman said. “I’ve had four qualify for the race in the past, but only one run and that drew the outside and had no chance. And that one wasn’t in the class of these two.”
Bought by Pitman for $45,000 from Haunui Farm’s Book 1 draft at the National Yearling Sales, Ohio Showgirl has recorded a debut win and a third in Riccarton’s Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m) from four starts, while Lovebug, a $20,000 purchase by Pitman from Haunui’s Book 2 draft, was ninth on debut in the Welcome Stakes then won over 820m at Wingatui. “They’re both going to Ellerslie on January 12,” Pitman said. “It will give them a chance to look at the course.”
Beforehand, Lovebug will attempt to secure her spot in the Karaka Million 2YO when starting in the two and three-year-old 1150m on New Year’s Day at Waikouaiti, the Pitman stable’s base over the busy summer period.