(By John Jenkins)
Today’s Group 3 Inglis Sales Cambridge Breeders Stakes brought about one of the most unusual finishes of any black type race run in New Zealand this season.
In a desperately close three-way finish to the 1400m feature Vigor Winner and Speedy Meady crossed the line locked together with Santa Catarina just centimetres behind them.
Judge Tommy Thompson was reluctant to make an early call, saying it could go either way between the first two, and after further deliberation he declared a dead-heat.
Both winners, Vigor Winner and Speedy Meady, went into the race on the back of unusual circumstances.
Troy Harris was the original jockey booked for Vigor Winner but could not make the horse’s book weight of 56.5kg after battling ill-health for the past week so he was replaced by Donavan Mansour. Speedy Meady was fifth emergency for the race and only got into the field when five horses in front of him were withdrawn at final scratching time on the morning of the races.
Te Awamutu trainer Stephen Ralph said he found out at 7.25am that Speedy Meady had made the final field and then had to quickly find a rider. His first option was Cameron Lammas but, when he was already booked for She’s A Thief, he opted for Andrew Calder.
“Andrew had ridden him in the trials so he got the call,” Ralph said.
Vigor Winner’s trainer Lauren Brennan also had to quickly find a replacement rider for her horse and had a special thank-you to Troy Harris for finding the right person for the job.
“I do feel for Troy as I know he was trying his hardest to get his weight down as he has been so sick,” Brennan said.
“He managed to get hold of Donavan (Mansour) and gave him a few tips on how to ride the horse.”
Vigor Winner settled well back in the early stages and was still giving the leaders a big start approaching the home turn. Mansour managed to weave a passage through the field to challenge the leader Santa Catarina, only to be joined by Speedy Meady and Calder after they had also cleared the ruck inside the final 250 metres and the two horses hit the line together.
“We’ll take a dead-heat every day,” Speedy Meady’s trainer Stephen Ralph said.
“I was sitting up (in the grandstand) on the line and I thought he had it by a nose and I was going completely off, but we’ll take the dead-heat.
“He ran a quicker time than the open sprint at Rotorua on Monday and I said to people that he would smash them out of the park today, with no disrespect to the other runners, I just thought we had the horse to win.
“My only worry was the track because Te Rapa doesn’t suit some horses but as long as he could handle it, I thought he would be a good shot.”
Vigor Winner’s trainer Lauren Brennan was also pleased with her horse’s effort after the lightly raced Declaration Of War gelding had drawn barrier 13 for the contest.
“We were a bit concerned about that draw, although he did do it tough at Taranaki (last start) from a wide draw as well,” she said.
“He has the ability and a good horse always seems to find his way through.”
“He (Vigor Winner) has just got so much raw natural ability and we will probably head to Queensland now for something maybe like the Fred Best (Group 3 1400m) and if he’s going to keep improving like that then possibly a look at the Queensland Guineas (Group 2 1600m).
Santa Catarina was a game third. She had to be used up early to get across from an outside draw and dispute the pace and kicked on strongly when taken on in the home straight.
The previously unbeaten Sheezallmine also turned in another gutsy effort for fourth while fifth placed Media Sensation, winner of last year’s Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas, just peaked on her run in the final 200m but will have taken a lot of improvement from the run.