Highlad returned to winning form on Saturday with a heart-stopping victory in the J. Swap Te Aroha Cup (2200m).
Co-trainer Andrew Forsman indicated before the race that he was leaning towards the High Chaparral four-year-old over stablemate Show The World with the prediction of a sit-sprint battle developing in the six-horse field.
That scenario went out the window almost immediately however, as Hastings visitor Saint Kitt sent a solid pace out in front throughout with Highlad settling well back in a strung-out field.
Rider Michael Coleman improved Highlad into a challenging position on the home corner before drawing clear with the well favoured Bizzwinkle as they set down to fight out the finish.
In a tooth and nail struggle Highlad gained the ascendancy to score by a short-head with Cheeky Boy running on nicely to gain third.
“That was a good solid effort although he did want to knock off and wait for the other horse a bit in the home straight,” said Forsman.
“His record on firm tracks doesn’t read that well but it’s probably a little circumstantial as he does tend to prefer a reasonable surface.
“All in all it was a good hit-out and should have him right for Hastings next weekend.” Both Highlad and Show The World have the Listed Hawkes Bay Gold Cup (2200m) at Hastings this Saturday as their target although Forsman will wait to see how Show The World pulls up from his Te Aroha exertions before confirming a definite start.
“I’m not so sure about Show The World as he didn’t look that comfortable on the ground and couldn’t really sprint with them when the speed went on,” he said.
“We will wait to see how comes through the race as he looked a little scratchy in the run home so went won’t push on if he isn’t one hundred percent.” Forsman was also pleased with the performance of the stables four runners in the rich Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) which saw Vin De Dance finish fourth as the best performed of the quartet.
“Vin De Dance went a very solid race and battled on strongly to finish fourth,” he said.
“Weather With You probably did his chips with a slow start while Mission Hill over-raced and the wide barrier didn’t do any favours for Mongolian Marshal.
“I think Vin De Dance and Mission Hill will probably come home for a spell now but the other two might stay around for another race or two depending on how they come through the run.”