In a contest largely focussed on glamour mare Babylon Berlin, talented entire Sacred Satono made the most of his six-kilogram weight advantage to storm home in the Group 3 Counties Bowl (1100m) on Saturday at Pukekohe.
Prepared by the Byerley Park-based partnership of Bruce Wallace and Grant Cooksley, Sacred Satono was among the four runners carrying the minimum of 53kg, while race-favourite Babylon Berlin and in-form sprinter Johny Johny received a 59kg impost in the $150,000 feature.
As anticipated, Johny Johny took up the front-running role under Jim Chung and set a strong tempo early, while Sacred Satono worked into more prominent position midfield from barrier five in a compact six-horse field.
An experienced Michael McNab contained the son of Satono Aladdin within striking distance of Babylon Berlin into the home turn, and the sway in the weights was telling in the closing stages as he stormed over the top of a gallant race-favourite to score by three-quarters-of-a-length.
Group One-winning Te Akau mare Romancing The Moon produced a classy effort in a distance previously short of her best in third, a head clear of Jodelin Gal.
2023 Group 3 Counties Bowl Replay – Sacred Satono | T: Bruce Wallace & Grant Cooksley | J: Michael McNab
“It was a very good win, he tries very hard and stuck his head out at the right time,” Cooksley said.
“I thought he would be very hard to beat off his work, he’s been working well.”
The four-year-old was beaten less than a length in last year’s edition of the Counties Bowl behind Letzbeglam, where he then went on to produce a first black-type victory in the Group 3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m).
Two strong performances this preparation, including a comfortable win over 1200m at Te Rapa, saw Cooksley send Sacred Satono across the Tasman to contest the A$1 million Silver Eagle at Randwick, where he produced a strong effort to finish midfield less than three lengths off the victor.
“He’s grown up a lot, he had a very hard run in that race but went very well in it so we’ve bought him back here to see what he does,” Cooksley said.
“We were very happy (coming into today), he will improve with that run as well.”
McNab was rewarded for his loyalty to Sacred Satono in recent months, after electing to travel to Australia to partner with him in the Silver Eagle, bypassing the ride aboard eventual winner Ladies Man in the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings.
The two-time Champion hoop revealed post-race he was also given the choice between the stallion and Babylon Berlin for the feature at Pukekohe, and reaped the benefits of his decision.
“I’m rapt with that,” McNab said.
“I’ve been asking for a long time for the blinkers to go on him and we got them on today, I thought he’d be a bit more aggressive than what he was but he’s such an old gentleman he just lobbed. When I needed him he was there for me.
“I’ve obviously stuck with this horse, I had the choice of riding him or Ladies Man and I went to Australia to ride him, so for him to come back and win today gives me a really good thrill.
“I don’t regret it, obviously missing out on a Group One isn’t great but the experience and exposure I got that day was unbelievable. To go and ride him, who I think will win a Group One eventually, I don’t regret it.”
Sacred Satono will more than likely contest race-rival Babylon Berlin next in the Group 1 Sistema Railway (1200m) on New Year’s Day, where the mare will have the benefit of returning to set weights and penalties, allowing her to carry just 54.5kg.
Despite the weight returning to more equal terms in the Railway, McNab has faith Sacred Satono can continue to match his Group One-proven counterpart.
“I think he can, I think he’s one of the better horses in New Zealand going around so I don’t see why he couldn’t.”
Following Saturday’s race, Babylon Berlin remained a warm $2.80 favourite for the Railway with horse racing bookmakers, while Sacred Satono shortened to $4.80 and Romancing The Moon into $16.
Purchased by Wallace Thoroughbreds for just $34,000 out of Book 2 in the 2021 National Yearling Sales at Karaka, Sacred Satono has proved a valuable investment producing almost $350,000 in stakes from 18 career starts.