A thrilling victory by Justacanta in Saturday’s Listed Paris Lane Stakes (1410m) at Flemington saw the successful culmination of a plan hatched by trainers Shaun and Emma Clotworthy after the now eight-year-old had completed his summer campaign in March this year.
A model of consistency over his 47 New Zealand starts, where he won six races and was placed a further 20 times, including at Group Three level, the son of Per Incanto had reached an awkward place in the handicaps with his owners of the opinion there were limited options left for him on the local scene.
An opportunity to transfer him to the Patrick Payne stable in Melbourne was taken up with the goal of trying to win at stakes level in the competitive Victorian market.
A solid run for sixth at Sandown in just his second-up run provided hope that a victory was close at hand and so it proved on Saturday as rider Dean Yendall kept Justacanta under wraps behind horses before exploding clear in the final stages to win easing down by half a length at the line.
The win set off mass celebrations in the Clotworthy household as they cheered their pride and joy home from the comfort of their living room.
“It was pretty special alright,” Shaun Clotworthy said.
“The race was the last on the card at around eight o’clock, so we had settled into the living room for the night to watch some rugby.
“When we saw him going so well just in behind them the excitement levels rose and when he burst to the lead the yelling and screaming went up a few volumes.
“It is very satisfying that the plan we had has come off as we knew there wasn’t much for him over here anymore and we felt there was still some juice left in him.
“I think the easing of the ground yesterday helped and it was a lovely ride as there was plenty of speed on and he didn’t expose him until late in the piece.
“He’s not very big but he has an electric turn of foot and was going away from them at the post, although he was up to his normal tricks and wanted to knock off a bit when he hit the front.”
Now that he has found form, Clotworthy is keen to see what Payne has planned next for Justacanta.
“Patrick has done a really good job with him,” he said.
“We had a very quick chat after the race and I think he is looking at a mile on Cox Plate day as his next run.
“I’m not sure whether Moonee Valley is his best track, but the beauty of the set-up over there is that you are spoiled for choice at this time of the year.
“There are so many options, all for good money, so we will wait and see what Patrick tells us once the horse has had a few days to get over this run.”
While the Clotworthy’s couldn’t be in Melbourne to witness the win first-hand, they were also feeling frustration like most Aucklanders who are unable to travel outside the region due to COVID19 restrictions.
“We’re doing it tough like everyone else around here at the moment with all the restrictions,” Clotworthy said.
“Not being able to travel to racemeetings with your horses is a terrible situation and puts a lot of pressure on us all.
“We put four on the float to Te Aroha today for the Great Northern meeting and had to wave them goodbye as they went out the gate.
“It is getting to the point where it isn’t feasible to keep going the way it is, not only is it playing havoc with your mental wellbeing, it also is putting pressure on other areas.
“You are actually very limited in what type of horse and how many you can send to the races, with the need to have staff or stand-ins handling them at the other end and we are very mindful of not sending some horses who can get fractious or need special handling.
“It really is a struggle and you can only hope it is going to change as quickly as possible.”