Trainer Stephen Marsh cut a relieved figure after gritty mare El Noir finally broke through for the win she had been promising of late, when taking out a rating 65 1200m contest at Te Aroha on Sunday.
The five-year-old daughter of El Roca had finished second in four of her five attempts in this campaign with Marsh keen to see her pick up a victory as just reward for that consistent form.
Apprentice Kozzi Asano positioned his mount nicely in midfield before angling the widest in the long Te Aroha home straight where El Noir produced a determined finish to down race favourite Notabadphelan and Red Inferno after a titanic struggle in the final 300m.
“She deserved that as she has been close in every race this time in,” Marsh said.
“She’s not overly big, but she is very strong and is a good scrapper when it turns into a dogfight.
“I said to Kozzi before the race that the key was for her to get plenty of cover before having one shot at them and I thought he did that to the letter.
“It makes for a good start to the new season as we finished with a win at Rotorua yesterday (She’s Apples) to round a great year as well.”
Marsh completed the 2020/21 season with 92 wins, 10 of those at stakes level and over NZD$2.23 million in prizemoney.
“We really got our momentum over the second part of the last season after a very slow start,” Marsh said.
“We did have a few that had met their mark, but when we started getting the younger horses coming through the wins started coming.
“I’m really excited about the prospects of our two and three-year-olds that we have for the spring.
“Danielle Johnson comes and rides work for me twice a week and she told me she thinks I have the best team of young horses that I have ever had, so that is a nice endorsement to have.”
Marsh will test that statement in the first three-year-old stakes race of the season at Ruakaka on August 21 where he will line-up El Vencedor and Midnight Rocket in the Group 3 Cambridge Stud Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).