Talented four-year-old Irish Flame indicated he could be in for a prosperous spring campaign when he scored a gutsy fresh-up victory over 1400m on his home patch at New Plymouth on Saturday.
A Group 3 winner as a two-year-old, Irish Flame hadn’t been seen on the track since finishing midfield in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie back in March.
Wheeler has always held a high opinion of the Zed gelding and was confident of a good performance despite opting not to trial him leading into the fixture.
“He’s a pretty good horse who’s always shown me a lot,” Wheeler said.
“He hadn’t had a trial or a jump-out or anything but I knew he was pretty much on the job.
“I thought I may as well start him as it was his home track. It’s good to run them on their home track as it doesn’t take too much out of them.”
Wheeler’s confidence was backed up by a positive ride from Johnathan Parkes who kept his mount within striking distance of the leaders throughout before assuming control on the point of the home turn.
Although getting a little leg weary in the concluding stages, Irish Flame found plenty to hold out the challenge of No Loitering with Pukekohe visitor Mount Midoriyama finishing strongly for third.
“He’s not the finished article yet,” Wheeler said.
“He’s filled out a lot but he’s got a lot more to go. “I’m delighted with him as he’s a very good horse who will go on.”
The victory capped a good day for Wheeler after Irish Flame’s stablemate Quaff took out the opening event on the card in the hands of Lisa Allpress.