Smart filly Pacific Dragon rounded out a successful juvenile season with another game performance to take out the final black-type event of the 2021-22 racing season, the Listed Courtesy Ford Ryder Stakes (12000m) at Te Rapa.
Originally scheduled to run at its traditional Otaki base, the feature event for the two-year-olds was shifted to the Te Rapa meeting after the decision was made early in the week to abandon the Otaki meeting due to a water-logged track and an unfavourable forecast.
That decision played into the hands of the Tony Pike-trained daughter of Charm Spirit who wouldn’t have made the trek south from her Cambridge base to contest the race due to the prevailing conditions.
Ridden by the season’s leading rider Michael McNab, Pacific Dragon sat on-speed outside the leader Novella throughout.
McNab opted to stay out in the middle of the track in the home straight and despite being hotly challenged by firstly Winexpress and then the Taranaki visitor Sophmaze in the final stages, kept going strongly to register her first stakes triumph and third career victory.
With Pike currently in Darwin with wife Kirsten on a belated trip to the popular Northern Territory’s Darwin Cup Carnival, it was left to stable representative Chris McNab, father of jockey Michael, to accept the plaudits after the victory.
“Today she hit the ground running from a wide draw (10) and the plan was to cross and lead on the fence,” Chris McNab said.
“Michael said he found a bit of ground in an earlier race that was pretty good in the straight, so he decided to stay wider and try that again and it has paid off.
“I think the O’Sullivan horse (Winexpress) probably got on terms with her at least but just never went past her.
“She was being attacked from both sides and she did it really well as she is one tough customer.
“After she won at Ruakaka last start we weren’t really going to go to Otaki with the likely very testing track, but when it came up on our back doorstep we had to have a crack and it has worked.”
Pacific Dragon carries the colours of Swettenham Stud after being purchased by Victorian trainer Henry Dwyer out of Windsor Park Stud’s draft at the 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale for $70,000.
Chris McNab was delighted that the filly could put some winning black-type next to her name for her connections after she had been relegated to second in the Group 2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“We will see what happens now as at some stage she will end up in Australia with Henry Dwyer, so getting that stakes win today is fantastic after having one taken off her at Ellerslie,” he said.
“We will let the dust settle before deciding what she does next, but she has matured a lot lately and is a good tough filly who you’d like to have a hundred of in the stable.
“She has been to every dance, on every track condition and you probably wouldn’t get a heavier surface than today, so it is very satisfying to see her get the reward she has.”
The win also lifted champion jockey Michael McNab to 144 wins for the season and importantly it was his 15th stakes victory which lifts him one clear of Opie Bosson as the rider with the most black type wins for the season.
It made for an early winning double for Michael McNab who had earlier saluted aboard the Stephen Marsh-trained Windspeed in race three on the programme.
The Pike stable also picked up a winning double when evergreen galloper River Run took out the Taumarunui RSA Gold Cup (2200m) in the hands of Kozzi Asano.
Carrying topweight of 60kgs the rising eight-year-old looped the field at the 600m before racing clear in the straight to register his third win in a row, all country cup events, and his sixth career victory.