Winton trainer Sophie Price is eyeing black type racing for her progressive gelding Henley after he won the inaugural Southern Mile Final (1600m) at Wingatui on Saturday.
The Southern Mile series, which involved 10 qualifying races and Saturday’s NZD$60,000 final, was the first beneficiary of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s Stakes Innovation Fund and involved six clubs and horses rated up to 74.
It proved very popular and the final drew a strong field of 14, with Henley going out an +1730 shot despite not finishing out of the first three in his qualifying races.
“It’s a really great initiative for Southern racing,” Price said. “The sponsorship has been great, and we really appreciate having good stakes like that and being able to have a crack at it.”
Price said she and the horse’s owners, Pete and Liz Forde, decided to look at this series after winning New Year’s Day over 1200m.
He finished second and third in his qualifying races, both of which were on slow tracks, and Price felt he was ready to run well with a track on firmer footing.
“He likes it up to about a Dead6, but once you get to a Slow7, 8, or 9, he handles it but he doesn’t really like it.
“He’s definitely a better track horse, but in saying that he doesn’t like it too hard, which is why we were a wee bit worried for Saturday, but he’s come through the race and I can’t fault him.”
Aiding Henley’s cause on Saturday was a barrier draw of three and a great rail-hugging ride from Terry Moseley, who didn’t need to go around a horse after the leaders rolled off the rail on the turn.
Price is now eyeing up one of the traditional features of South Island racing, the Listed Riverton Cup (2147m) at the Riverton Easter carnival on April 14.
“I don’t think the distance is a problem because he does settle,” Price said. “He doesn’t over-exert himself during a race so I think he’ll get the trip. We’ll give it a good go anyway.”
Price has five horses in work at her stable. She also rides work for fellow Winton trainer John Phillips, and returned to racing last season after taking a year off for the birth of her son, who is now 18 months old.
Price is also planning to take another horse owned by the Fordes, Fiery Red, to the Riverton carnival. She won her debut at the same track in May last year and was doing better after a couple of months off, Price said.
Also getting ready for her is Silent Battler, who won the Winton Cup fresh-up last October.
“He’s owned by my husband and my Dad and my husband’s friend,” Price said. “He’s just come back into to work and we’ll wait for the wet tracks with him.”