A comfortable maiden victory by Not Usual Litening at Te Rapa on Saturday has co-trainer Murray Baker looking at stepping his charge up to a greater challenge in the coming weeks. Baker, who prepares the Pins three-year-old at Cambridge with training partner Andrew Forsman, was taken by the ease of the performance that saw him comfortably hold out the challenge of stablemate Holy Mongolemperor in the opening 1400m contest on the programme.
Well supported in two unplaced runs as a two-year-old, Not Usual Litening travelled nicely in the trail throughout before responding to the urgings of rider Leith Innes as he struck the front at the 300m before going on to record a two-length victory.
Baker admitted the stable has a high opinion of the gelding, who was a $100,000 purchase from the Kilgravin Lodge draft at the 2018 Ready To Run Sale by owners Horse Feng Bloodstock. “He was pretty well supported as a two-year-old but he just didn’t cop the slow tracks he struck in his two runs,” Baker said.
“He went a nice race first-up at Te Aroha and his performance on Saturday was very good as he travelled up nicely and then put them away quite well. “We didn’t really have a plan with him as I just wanted to see him put it all together first so now that he has done that, I think we can lift our sights with him. “I’ll get the programme book out this week and have a look at what’s coming up but there are a number of options to look at at this time of the year.”
A Turn Me Loose half-brother to Not Usual Litening will be offered through the Windsor Park Stud draft during Book 1 at the upcoming National Yearling Sales at Karaka next month. Baker also indicated he wasn’t disappointed with the performance of $1.40 favourite Holy Mongolemperor who he feels is looking for a mile or further now.
“He (Holy Mongolemperor) is already looking for the mile so I think once we can get him over ground you will see his true ability,” he said. “He just took a while to wind up on Saturday but was very strong past the line so he just needs more ground. “He is one of our Derby candidates and is shaping like the 2400m will be perfect for him.”
Another of the Baker/Forsman Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) candidates in Rhaegar missed a run at Awapuni on the weekend due to a minor hoof infection with Baker advising that he expected to see him back in action again shortly.
Baker reported that two other well-performed three-year-olds in Group 3 Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) winner Quick Thinker and Listed Geelong Classic (2200m) winner Long Jack have both returned from Australia in fine fettle and are not far from a race track return as they also build to a start in the New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie on February 29.