Local runner Rock On returned to winning form after a long lay-off with a storming victory in the Gr.3 Hotel Coachman Manawatu Cup (2200m) at Awapuni.
The six-year-old Road To Rock gelding went amiss last season shortly before contesting the Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) in January.
Nursed back to health by the team at trainer Gary Vile’s Awapuni stable, Rock On resumed last month and had three runs in his current prep before tackling Saturday’s feature.
Rider Robbie Hannam, who had expressed some confidence before the race, had Rock On humming along sweetly at the rear of the field before easing his way into contention with 1000m to run. Rock On hit top gear in the run home as he launched a powerful burst to claim eventual runner-up Balham in the shadows of the winning post.
An emotional Vile was quick to pay tribute to partner Vivienne Kaye for her work in getting Rock On back to the track after his injury-enforced lay-off.
“God there’s been some work go into this horse,” he said.
“He showed so much last year and to break down just before the Wellington Cup was heart-breaking.
“Vivienne’s done all the hard work so it’s a big thrill.”
Hannam was beaming when questioned about how the race had unfolded.
“He’s just a quiet achiever,” Hannam said.
“He hasn’t looked that good at his last two starts but they were really encouraging.
“I said to Gary that after his last start he would definitely run in the first three.
“I wasn’t sure if he was ready to win but I was definite he would run in the first three.
“I put him in a position so he could win the race and he out-stayed them in the end.”
Successful in the 2017 edition of the Listed New Zealand St Leger (2500m) as a four-year-old before finishing third in the Gr.2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) at Randwick, Rock On has now won six of his 33 career starts and over $214,000 in prizemoney