Okay Pal winning at Timaru on Friday. Photo credit: Race Images South
There was a big rap on Okay Pal heading into his debut performance at Phar Lap Raceway on Friday and the Michael and Matthew Pitman-trained three-year-old didn’t disappoint.
He pinged out of his outside barrier in the 14 horse field to take an early lead for jockey Sam Weatherley and never looked back, kicking clear in the straight to win the Equine Veterinary Services Dash (1200m) by three lengths.
The son of Dissident received a lot of attention from bloodstock agents after his impressive 800m trial win at Ashburton last month, however, a failed vet inspection resulted in a sale, reported to be worth $500,000, falling through.
“I reckon he is the best horse I have ever put a saddle on. He is a super horse,” Michael Pitman said.
“We had him sold for a massive amount of money, but some clown up north didn’t vet him out. But never mind, that’s his business. I am guessing the phone will be red hot after today, but they will have to pay a lot more for him now.”
Purchased for just $8,000 by Pitman, Okay Pal is nominated for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), but his connections also have richer spoils in-mind.
“I nominated him a couple of weeks ago for a $2 million race at the Gold Coast,” Pitman said. “He was a $170,000 weanling, a $220,000 yearling and I bought him for only four digits in June (last year).
“His X-rays were perfect and his scope was perfect. He is just a lovely specimen and he is nominated for every Magic Millions race in Australia.
“If we get there, we get there, but I will look after him.”
The victory was an emotional one for Pitman, with Oaky Pal being a daughter of stakes-placed mare Sun Valley, whom Pitman trained for stable client and close friend Jim Campin.
“When I stop and reflect, I know it is a very special occasion for us, especially for Dianne,” he said.
“She saw the horse walking around the ring and said ‘this is a third generation Jim Campin’ and he was one of the greatest influences on my training career.
“He sent us so many nice horses. We won over 100 races for Jim and he was a terrific owner and a good bloke. Unfortunately Jim got what I had (cancer), but I have survived and Jim didn’t.”
While Pitman has held Okay Pal in high regard for some time, he was buoyed by Weatherley’s opinion on the gelding after he rode him to his trial victory.
“When Sam won on him at the trials he said to Dianne this could possibly be the best horse I have put a leg over,” Pitman said.
“There must be some semblance of truth because he absolutely bolted in today.”