Scenes of unbridled joy and celebration broke out on the Riccarton public lawn shortly after outsider Ritani (+2000) took out the 124th running of the Group 3 Winning Edge Presentations Winter Cup (1600m) on Saturday.
Friends, family and connections of the Kerry and Ian Taplin-trained seven-year-old Makfi mare were besides themselves as rider Kozzi Asano returned to the birdcage after Ritani had downed the well supported Taranaki raider Justaskme and fellow northerner Verry Flash to record her ninth and most important career victory.
Asano produced a copybook ride as he settled Ritani in behind the steady speed set up by pacemakers Quiz Kid and So Much Mour before angling for a run closer to the rails in the home straight, as the majority of the field fanned wide.
Driven to the front at the 150m, Ritani had enough in reserve to hold out all challengers by just over a length and set off the jubilant celebrations.
As his wife Kerry accepted hugs and kisses from the ecstatic group of supporters, it was left to an emotional Ian Taplin to welcome back the horse to the Riccarton birdcage after the race.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
“Look at the people with Kerry, just wow.
“We had the plan three months ago to set her for this race, so we gave her a break and brought her back for the Cup trial at Ashburton, where she ran fifth.
“We then went to the Oamaru Cup where she was going to run second but just got run down on the post.
“This is just amazing.”
Asano was full of smiles after the win as he paid tribute to his mount.
“I can’t believe I won it as it was such a tough run,” he said.
“I was going to get cover three or four back, but she jumped well and was just travelling so well.
“When I asked her, she just kept going and was so tough.”
Ritani is out of the stakes placed Unbridled’s Song mare, Elegant Emerald who ran fourth in the 2003 Group 1 Telegraph Handicap (1200m) behind Tit For Taat.
Purchased by bloodstock agent Bruce Perry for NZD$85,000 out of the Wellfield Lodge draft at the 2016 Select Yearling Sale, she did her initial racing for owner Lib Petagna from the Stephen Marsh stable where she won on four occasions.
Ritani transferred to the Taplin stable in October last year after being purchased for NZD$16,000 off the gavelhouse.com auction site, where she has now won a further five races and career prizemoney of just over NZD$213,000.