Riccarton trainer Michael Pitman has never been afraid to travel his horses in search of lucrative prizemoney and the right conditions.
Pitman, who trains in partnership with his son Matthew, is looking forward to another adventure this weekend when smart sprinter Sensei will represent the stable in the Gr.1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield and take on some of Australia’s best sprinters.
The Christchurch horseman has made no secret of the fact he rates the last-start Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) placegetter as superior to his stablemate and winner of that race, Enzo’s Lad.
“Everything’s gone to plan,” Pitman said. “We have travelled up north and stayed at Graeme Rogerson’s place just out of Hamilton, and he will fly to Melbourne on Tuesday night.
“I have no doubt he should have won the Telegraph. Had he got the draw that Enzo’s Lad got, he would have won the race for sure.
“He’s the best sprinter I’ve ever had. Coup Align was an outstanding sprinter, but this horse is just that little bit better.
“He’s a very fast horse but we’ve had to treat him with kid gloves a bit because of his tendency to over-race.”
Pitman knows the challenge that awaits his four-year-old entire, who will take on the likes of Group One winners Shoals, Viddora and emerging star Nature Strip.
“We know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m really looking forward to running him in a race with good speed in it.
“Nature Strip goes hard so hopefully we can get a draw and just follow him.”
With a 96 rating, Sensei will carry 52kgs in the Oakleigh Plate and Pitman has secured lightweight rider Dean Holland.
The trainer is comfortable with more than a month between runs, having finished third at Trentham on January 19.
“What we find is that if we space his races he actually races more relaxed which is the opposite of what you’d think,” Pitman said.
The trip to Melbourne is very much a chance for Sensei to dip his toe in the water with a view to returning later in the year.
“What I’m keen to do is get him over there, give him the run and come home and look at going back for some races during the Melbourne Cup carnival,” Pitman said.
Pitman has endured a well-documented battle with bowel cancer but said his health was on the improve.
“I’m good. The pain has gone from eight or nine (out of ten) six weeks’ ago to one or two. I’m taking 30-odd pills a day but I’m getting there,” he said.
The leading South Island conditioner said more travel is on the horizon on both a personal and business front.
“We’re actually booked to go on a cruise to Singapore from Melbourne on Sunday morning,” he said.
“I’ve also been told that Enzo’s Lad is a probable to get a trip to Hong Kong for the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (Gr.1, 1200m) in April, so it would be nice to represent New Zealand with a multiple Group One winner.”