Sea Shepherd might have drawn comparisons with legendary motorcyclist Burt Munro from his training gallops leading into his debut win but Invercargill trainer Sabin Kirkland has upped the ante further leading into his second start at Gore on Friday.
Kirkland said that leading into his debut win at Ashburton the only thing that could have gone faster along Oreti Beach than his training gallops was Munro on his famous Indian motorbike.
And as the Zacinto three-year-old gelding prepares for Friday’s Hokonui Suzuki Handicap (1335m), Kirkland reported he hadn’t taken a backwards step in his training either.
“Sea Shepherd is flying. He’s been working at the beach and doing a lot of water-walking,” Kirkland said.
“He couldn’t be going any better. As the girl who rode him said when she came back the other day, he’s like a little Phar Lap. He’s very well.”
After a successful trial at Ashburton in late July, Sea Shepherd couldn’t have been any more impressive in winning on debut at Ashburton earlier this month.
It signalled to Kirkland that, safely through his transition race at Gore this week, he was on track for a step up to stakes company in the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton on October 16 as a final leadup to the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 6.
But the performance also caught the eye of Australian interests.
“He came home in the fastest sectionals of the day at Ashburton the other day. We had him sold to Melbourne but he had a wee thing in his fetlock that showed up in his vet check,” Kirkland said.
“The vet said it was a 50-50 call, that it wouldn’t affect his future racing, but they opted not to buy him. It was good money but as (bloodstock agent) Phill Cataldo said, if you run again on Friday and do well, everything is back in play again.
“Hopefully we can go well on Friday, then we’ll go to the Barneswood at Ashburton and then on to the Guineas at his fourth start. That’s the plan anyway.”
Kirkland has three runners entered for Gore, with fellow 2000 Guineas hopeful Doringo set to tackle the O’Connor Richmond Maiden (1200m) and four-year-old Whytelock on debut in the Henderson Livestock Maiden (1335m).
Kirkland had taken Doringo and Whytelock to the same trials as Sea Shepherd at Ashburton in July, with Doringo winning by half a length and Whytelock running on for fourth in separate heats.
“Doringa has drawn five and with the ballots out, he’ll come into three so he should get a great trip with Chris Johnson up. He won his trial quite nicely at Ashburton. He jumped out and led them up so I don’t think he’ll be far away,” Kirkland said.
“It was withdrawals for the 2000 Guineas this week but I thought I can’t pull him out till he races. They are only three once and he has drawn to win the race.
“Whytelock went up to Ashburton and he trialled nicely too so he won’t be far away.”
Kirkland’s other trial winner at Ashburton that day was Buoyant, who won his heat by six lengths before finishing second to subsequent Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) winner Art De Triomphe on debut at Ashburton earlier this month.
However, Buoyant went shin sore after that race so Kirkland has sent him to the paddock for six weeks with a view to preparing him for southern Guineas races in the summer.