Jim Pender isn’t in any hurry to take on the topliners yet with Gospodin despite a picket fence formline now stretching to five starts.
A seven-week break and a step up to open handicap company didn’t prove any barrier to Gospodin in the Veterinary Associates Equine handicap (1200m) at Te Aroha on Sunday, as he comfortably beat a useful field of winter sprinters.
The latest victory for the Tauranga four-year-old confirms his status as an exciting prospect, on winter tracks at least, but Pender said he won’t be chasing black type just yet.
“He’s still a baby. He’s only had 11 runs and while some of the horses at the higher levels might not have had form, by God they still know what they’re doing. They’re professional racehorses and they’re always going to be hard to beat,” Pender said.
“If everything goes his way we could look at taking him down for the Stewards Handicap (Group 3, 1200m) at Riccarton in November, but there’s a lot that has to happen before he goes there.”
Pender hasn’t decided exactly what he’ll target just yet, though a sprint at the scheduled Ellerslie meeting on October 3 – provided that COVID-19 Level 3 restrictions are lifted to allow it to go ahead – is a possibility.
“We’re just going to breeze along quietly with him,” Pender said. “He’s come through the race well but I’m just going to let the smoke settle, give him a few days, and then start to go again.”
In addition to being delighted with the victory at Te Aroha with the son of Proisir, Pender was particularly pleased Gospodin handled a slow rather than heavy track, and that he took a sit off the pace rather than leading as he did for his previous victories.
“It shows he’s not an out-and-out mudder and that he’s not a horse that has to lead.”
Though Gospodin’s wins have all been in the 1200-1300m range, Pender is confident the gelding will run 1600m in time.
“It’s just the way things have panned out that he’s stuck to the shorter distances. But the way he ran on Sunday he just dropped the bit and relaxed and didn’t go until the button was pushed,” Pender said. “I think he’ll get a very nice mile in a bit of time.”
Though Gospodin is very much the flag-bearer for the Pender team at the moment, he was also pleased at the effort of Nasha Riva for fourth in the open 1600m after being arguably asked to make her run from last a little too soon.
Pender is also excited at the prospects of recent trial winner Valadams and the three-year-olds Wey Too Cool and Showamillion.