Late gamble brings black-type reward for Wiles

Southern Warrior storms home to win the Listed Staphanos At Novara Park Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe. Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

While some feature-race wins are the result of months of planning and preparation, others can fall perfectly into place within the space of just 17 days.

Saturday’s Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe only came on to the radar for Cambridge trainer Dean Wiles after he saddled Southern Warrior for a promising fifth on debut at Matamata on May 8.

The Belardo gelding produced an eye-catching late run from last over 1200m that day, giving Wiles an inkling that the 1600m of New Zealand’s longest two-year-old race might be up his alley.

Two and a half weeks later, Southern Warrior stepped out as a $20 outsider in Saturday’s Champagne Stakes and launched another big finish from the back of the field.

This time his stamina counted for so much more.

“I just thought the Belardo factor might kick in today on a heavy track,” said Wiles, whose only previous stakes win came with Cong’er in the Listed Karaka Classic (1600m) at the same venue in 2012.

“He had been working great. He’s only a little pony, but jeez he can run.

“I knew he’d get back to last, and I just thought he could skip through that wet ground.

“I didn’t even think about this race until that debut run at Matamata a couple of weeks ago. He got back last that day too and ran on really well.

“Everyone that’s ridden him has said that the further he goes, the better he’ll be. And then once the rain came this morning, I was quietly confident.”

Jockey Joe Doyle rode a patient race on Southern Warrior on Saturday and was still last of the nine two-year-olds in the field as Zorro’s Revenge swept to the front in a bold move at the 300m mark.

Zorro’s Revenge opened up a commanding lead of more than two lengths and appeared to have the $100,000 feature firmly in his grasp, but then Doyle brought Southern Warrior down the extreme outside of the track.

The little chestnut worked through his gears and built up his momentum, eating into Zorro’s Revenge’s advantage.

That rival saw him coming and lifted again, but Southern Warrior clawed his way past in the final 60m and scored by a neck.

The third-placed Magna Memory finished five and a half lengths behind the first pair.

“Fair play to Dean – he thought the ground would suit this horse and he’d get the trip,” Doyle said.

“This horse isn’t big, but he’s got a big heart and tries very hard.

“It was the plan to go to the back early. If anything, it probably helped him that the other horse (Zorro’s Revenge) got so far ahead of us in the straight, because my horse is still very green. Dean has quite a small team, and it’s not the easiest when you have only a handful of horses. But I think having something to aim at was probably a key factor in his performance today.”

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