Progressive mare Pinched made a winning return to the track on Friday but not before causing her trainer Ross McCarroll plenty of concern down the long Te Aroha straight.
The victory made it three wins from three starts for the Pins four-year-old who had been off the scene since scoring impressively over 1300m at New Plymouth back in March.
Fitted for her campaign opener with a soft win over 800m at the Cambridge trials back in November, Pinched showed plenty of gate speed to sit handy to the pace throughout the rating 72 1200m contest.
Rider Sam Weatherley asked for a serious effort shortly after straightening for the run home but the tanks looked to be running on empty as Pinched laboured to get on terms with pacemaker Showboat, who looked set to record an all-the-way victory.
Pinched slowly warmed to her task and drove hard in the final 100m to thrust her head in front of a brave Showboat with Bevan Street close up in third.
McCarroll cut a relieved figure after the race, admitting he thought his charge was only battling in the run home.
“I’ve had a frustrating time with her as she has had a bruised heel and that put us back a month,” he said.
“She’s got a bit of guts and there’s no doubt about that as she was beaten and was only going to run fourth.
“I think she actually ended up winning quite reasonably although it was close on the line.
“I personally think she needs to go a bit further but I’ll wait to see what Sam says.
“I’ve been having a bad run and I thought here we go here’s another one but she got the job done.”
Weatherley belayed any fears that the mare might have been beaten as he felt she had the situation under control throughout.
“It was a good tough win,” he said.
“The leader had a good kick on the corner and left me a little flat-footed but to her credit I always felt like the winner.
“It was a good effort and I think up to 1400m and even a mile, that’s when you will see the best of her.
“She’s kept her unbeaten record and she is going forward in the right way.”
Bred and part owned by McCarroll, Pinched is the second foal of his handy mare Stole who won six times and finished second in the Gr.2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington.