Visiting Canterbury galloper Pendleton came of age at Wingatui on Saturday when she downed her mainly older rivals with a dominant performance to take out the Listed Fire & Mechanical Contracting Dunedin Gold Cup (2400m).
The lightly raced four-year-old was having just her ninth start, and first run since a win over 2100m at Timaru in late December, when she stepped up to tackle stakes company for the first time in the time-honoured contest.
Racing in the distinctive gold colours and navy blue cap of her owner, Valachi Downs Stud principal Kevin Hickman, the Rip Van Winkle mare enjoyed an economical trip in the early stages of the race as leading rider Samantha Collett settled her nicely beyond midfield.
Collett got moving on Pendleton with 900m to run as she looped the field to join issue on the point of the home bend. Kicked to the front by Collett, the mare was resolute to the finish as she held out a stern challenge by fellow Canterbury raider Aspen Lass to score comfortably by more than two lengths at the line.
Co-trainer Shane Kennedy, who prepares Pendleton with partner Anna Furlong, was delighted by the performance after taking the gamble to tackle the black-type event.
“She’s very promising and has progressed quickly over the last twelve months,” he said.
“She only won her maiden in October so to take out a race like this at just her ninth start is a top effort.
“She won well over ground at Timaru, so we had a look around to see what was coming up that would suit. There wasn’t really anything as we didn’t want to go to the West Coast circuit, so we took a punt for this one.
“She had a trial in January to keep her up to the mark and today she showed what she is capable of, courtesy of a very heady ride by Sam Collett.”
Furlong indicated that he was looking further afield with the mare before she went for a winter break.
“I was having a chat with Jonathan Scully from Valachi Downs last night and we think a race like the St. Leger at Trentham next month would suit her,” he said.
“We’re mindful of not over-taxing her as I think she won’t be at her best until she turns five, so if she does go to Wellington she would most likely go for a spell after that.
“She’s an exciting prospect.”
The victory proved a tonic for owner Kevin Hickman who suffered the misfortune of having to retire multiple Group 1 placegetter Savile Row after the Makfi entire suffered a paddock accident on Friday.
The day got even better for Hickman when consistent performer Los Cabos picked up her second career victory with a win over 1600m in the last race on the card, in the process giving winning rider Samantha Collett a treble.