Equinox added his name to what promises to be a powerful Te Akau assault on the Group 1 $225,000 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes on March 30 when he led all the way in the two-year-old race at Trentham today.

The Exceed And Excel colt started a raging hot favourite for the TAB March Madness Cup (1200m) and, after putting a winning break on his rivals early in the home straight, he managed to stave off a late challenge from Holy Mongolemperor to win by a long head.

Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards said after the win Equinox will now probably join last Saturday’s Group 1 Sistema Stakes winner Yourdeel and Wednesday’s impressive Matamata winner Folk Dress as the stable’s leading hopes for the Awapuni feature.

Equinox was recording his second success at Trentham, after scoring an impressive 2-1/4 length win over 1000m there in January. He was then unsuited by a slow track when a distant fifth over 1200m at Matamata on February 23 and Richards was slightly concerned about the footing at Trentham track today, which was downgraded from a dead-5 to dead-6.

“As long as the track is okay he’ll go to Awapuni,” Richards said.

“He probably still wants a track a bit better than what it was today.”

The plan was to try and take a sit just in behind the pace with Equinox in today’s race but jockey Michael McNab had no option but to let the horse take up the lead when nothing else wanted to push on in the early stages.

It left the colt a sitting duck to be run down and Holy Mongolemperor made it interesting when he flashed at the leader in the final few strides.

“We’ll need to ride him with a bit of cover over 1400 at Awapuni for him to see it out,” Richards added.

Equinox was a $750,000 purchase by Te Akau proprietor David Ellis from last year’s Karaka yearling sales and is by Exceed And Excel out of the Encosta de Lago mare Our Ella Belle. He is now raced by the Te Akau 2018 Colt Breeding Syndicate.