While there may be only a couple of weeks left before Murray Baker hands over the stable reins to training partner Andrew Forsman, the pair are still churning out a regular stream of winners as evidenced on Saturday.
The Cambridge-based combination produced speedy two-year-old Charm Spirit filly Westwood to win convincingly in the hands of apprentice Niranjan Parmar in an 1100m juvenile event at Te Rapa on Saturday, while promising maiden debutant St Lawrence produced an eye-catching late run to take out a 1400m three-year-old contest at Hastings.
The pair went agonisingly close to a winning treble as one race earlier at Hastings, impeccably bred two-year-old Shanlord went under by a narrow margin to the Tony Pike-trained Dimaggio after the pair staged a torrid home straight battle.
Baker was pleased with the team’s performance and believes there is more to come for all three stablemates.
“Westwood is very promising and is a very speedy filly,” he said.
“She was helped by the 3kg claim for her rider, but she showed plenty of heart to kick away at the top of the straight and never really looked like being caught.
“I’d actually never met her owner (Angus Lampp) before Saturday, but it was great to have him there on-course and we caught up in the birdcage after the race.
“I think he is going to have a lot of fun with her.
“We’ll give her a day or two to get over the run and then have a think about what we do next with her.”
Westwood is a daughter of the Group Three winner Crepe De Chine and was purchased by Lampp for NZD$37,500 out of the Mapperley Stud draft during the Book 2 sale at Karaka in 2021.
Baker was also thrilled to see St Lawrence claim his debut win, with the half-brother to progressive stayer Marroni expected to excel as he steps up in distance.
“He (St Lawrence) had won a couple of trials on the synthetic here at home before Saturday so we were hoping for a good run from him,” he said.
“He is going to need ground to show his best, the same as Marroni does and I think he will be a pretty handy type once he strengthens up.
“The same applies to Shanlord who went close in the two-year-old race down at Hastings.
“He is a Savabeel out of the good mare Stolen Dance who we won a Thorndon Mile (Group 1, 1600m) with.
“I think he has inherited plenty of the family ability and will be a pretty handy three-year-old next season.
“It was hard to get a line on him on Saturday as it was only a three-horse field and he did a lot of things wrong, but with that experience under his belt he will get some of the street smarts he needs moving forward.”
The only dampener for Baker on the day was the performance by Marroni in the Group 3 JRA Plate (2000m) at Randwick where the son of Makfi dropped out to finish a well beaten eighth in the Group Three feature.
“I just can’t put my finger on what happened there as he was beaten a long way from home,” he said.
“Whether it was the track or something bothering him I don’t know, but we will give him a good going over during the week and hopefully come up with the answer.”
Baker also reported that a Queensland campaign was being considered for quality galloper The Chosen One, who was having a few days in the paddock following a tough run in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at his most recent start.
With a little over two weeks to go in his storied training career Baker is looking forward to giving up the early morning starts in favour of some more time at home and some potential international travel in the near future.
“I’ve only got a couple of weeks left and then that’s it,” he said.
“Things at the stable are ticking over nicely although we are winding down for the winter but come May that will be Andrew’s concern.
“Marianne and I don’t have any real plans at this stage but I’m sure there will be a trip across to Sydney coming up to catch up with our son Bjorn, his wife Andrea and the grandkids.
“We would also like to travel to Europe at some stage as Marianne still has plenty of family over in Sweden, but until the situation with Putin and the war with the Ukraine settles down that will be on the back burner.”