New Plymouth trainer John Wheeler has always had a high opinion of Irish Flame and the Zed four-year-old went a long way towards living up to that rating with a gutsy win in the Fasttrack Insurance 1600 at Ellerslie last Saturday.

Carrying 61.5kg on a heavy-10 track, Irish Flame gave his rivals a head start and a sound a beating in the Rating 72 event. Jockey Leith Innes got the gelding to relax at the back of the field in the early stages which Wheeler said was the key to the success.

“He’s a very good horse but difficult to ride,” the astute trainer said.

“He can over-race but if you can get him off the bit early he can really finish it off and that’s what happened today.”

Innes had Irish Flame second last until the 600m and then started to pick a path between horses. Once in the straight he managed to angle the horse to the outside and he produced a powerful finish to win by a short neck from Sinarahma, with Lucy Sweep a neck further back in third.

Irish Flame obviously relished the very wet track conditions and has now won five races, two on slow footing and two on heavy.

Wheeler said there is a possibility Irish Flame could back up at next Saturday’s Wellington meeting if track conditions suit.