Quality two-year-old Whiskey Neat identified himself as a major contender for the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) in January after his impressive ten-length victory on debut at Otaki on Friday.
Whiskey Neat, who was purchased for $220,000 at New Zealand Bloodstock’s Yearling Sales earlier this year by Bryce and Ginger Tankard of Waikato Bloodstock, started a short-priced $1.30 favourite at online bookmaker Sportsbet and won accordingly under jockey Leith Innes in the Vets On Riverbank 2YO (1000m).
“You don’t get many two-year-olds that win by ten lengths, so it was a pretty impressive performance,” trainer Tony Pike said.
“A lot of the opposition might have been questionable, but he’s run good time and has done everything professionally and won by a wide margin, so he’s a pretty exciting prospect.”
The son of Denman is destined for a career in Hong Kong where his owner Mr Leung is based, but the rich Karaka Million race was too enticing to pass up.
“The Karaka Million is the ultimate target this preparation,” Pike said. “His owner, Mr Leung, has decided to leave him down here with the Karaka Million in-mind rather than taking him straight to Hong Kong, so that was a pretty good start.
“We’ll see how he pulls up and then we will map out a bit of a program heading towards the Karaka Million.
“Most likely his next start will be at Ellerslie, I’m not sure what race yet. He will definitely go up there for a bit of experience around the track before he runs in the Karaka Million.”
Meanwhile, Pike was pleased with Sacred Judgement’s fourth-placing in the Group 3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes (1600m) and believes the three-year-old gelding will be better suited to autumn racing.
“It was a solid run today. He just might be a preparation away from it all yet, he’s just learning and is a bit on and off the bridle in his races,” Pike said.
“It was a solid enough performance and he has come a long way this preparation. In the autumn he will probably develop into a really nice horse.”