Runaway New Zealand St Leger winner Sampson could now be headed for another two cup races in the next month.
Trainer Howie Mathews was both elated and surprised by the nine-year-old’s 8-1/4 length victory in Saturday’s 2600m Trentham feature and indicated the Awapuni Gold Cup at the end of the month and the Hawke’s Bay Cup on April 13 could now be on the agenda for the veteran stayer.
Sampson took advantage of the new conditions of the Listed $50,000 Yealands Family Wines NZ St Leger to outclass his rivals, many of whom were only one race winners.
Traditionally a platform for younger stayers, the race was changed from a three and four-year-old event to an open-age feature this year and Sampson carried just 2.5kgs above the minimum, care of the set weights and penalties conditions.
Quick thinking by jockey Johnathan Parkes paved the way for Sampson’s hollow victory. The Central Districts hoop made a mid-race move when the tempo slackened to take his mount to the front and the horse was cruising rounding the home turn, with Parkes taking several looks over his shoulder in search of an opponent.
“Obviously he’s just out-stayed them all,” Parkes said.
“I wasn’t really happy with the pace down the back and I was able to let him roll forward and from there he has pretty much just dominated the race.
“It’s just such a shame that he missed out on the Wellington Cup (Group 3, 3200m) this year, but who knows, he might be back here next year for it.”
A stone bruise forced the late scratching of Sampson from January’s Wellington Cup with the Dubai Destination gelding in good form prior to the Cup, having landed the Listed Marton Cup (2200m) in impressive fashion.
Parkes looked behind several times in the home straight on Saturday to check on how far he was in front but was also mindful of not easing up on his mount in the run to the line.
“I have sat up on one, years ago, when I thought I was home-and-hosed, so I like to make sure they do get to the line or else it’s a costly suspension.”
Winning trainer Howie Mathews was gobsmacked by the ease of the win of Sampson who he said is like a member of the family.
“It was an amazing win,” Mathews said.
“Early when he was in trouble I thought ‘what’s parkesy doing?’ but he just had so much horse he had to let him stride along, and that’s the deal with the horse, he is a good one-pacer.
“He’s close to our heart and he’s fantastic. He’s just an everyday mate. He’s always there.”
The 93-rated stayer has now won 11 of his 64 starts and $435,000 in prizemoney.