Race favourite Vernazza overcame a wide run and a dogged local challenge to take out the feature event at Matamata on Saturday, the Group 2 J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m). Carrying the colours of Cambridge Stud couple Brendan and Jo Lindsay, the More Than Ready filly had impressed many with her maiden victory at Ellerslie early last month and had thrived during her six-week break between races.
Handled superbly by stand-in rider Michael Coleman, who was deputising for the suspended Leith Innes, Vernazza began well but was trapped three-wide behind a strong pace set up by the trio of Laced With Gold, Bonita Aurelia and Opalescence. Coleman didn’t panic as he let the leggy juvenile balance up after entering the home straight before he pressed the go button.
Vernazza bounded to the lead but was quickly under siege from local runner Kelly Renee. Forced to dig deep Vernazza pulled out a little more in the final stages to win by threequarters of a length with Bonita Aurelia holding on gamely for third.
The win created a special moment for trainer and former Matamata Racing Club committee man Lance Noble, who now trains out of the Lindsay’s purpose-built Karaka base. “That was something special as to be able to come back to Matamata and win this race just means so much,” he said. “I was thirty years here, began training here and was on the committee for fourteen years. “Michael (Coleman) and I started our apprenticeships together so it’s very special.”
Noble was full of his praise for his charge and for the efforts of Coleman. “She’s just kept learning and although we were a bit wide, we had cover,” Noble said. “Michael must have had a handful of horse as he just popped out and presented her and rode her a treat. “It’s a special moment as it’s the first Cambridge Stud-bred group winner under the new ownership. “We’ll see how she comes through today but the plan was if she went well then we would target Ellerslie next (Group 1 Sistema Stakes, 1200m).”
Bred by the Lindsay’s, Vernazza is out of their Group 3-winning Zabeel mare Zonza and is the younger half-sister of stakes winning three-year-old filly Bavella. The victory made it win number four in the race for Coleman who was impressed with the determination displayed by his mount.
“She’s a lovely filly with a lot of scope who will definitely be better in the future,” Coleman said. “Even though we were three wide I was happy as she had a nice bit of cover. She really dug deep when pressured although I think she will be better on a much firmer track than this but she’s got a bit of class.”