Last year’s Gr.2 Easter Stakes (1600m) winner Seventh Up looks in fine fettle to defend his title next month judging by his comfortable first-up victory at Rotorua on Saturday.
The lightly raced seven-year-old was resuming after finishing well back at Ellerslie in early December and relished the give in the Rotorua surface that was officially rated as a Dead4 on the day. Despite being off the scene for over three months trainer Shelley Hale felt her charge could run a bold race based on his lead-up work.
“I just thought he might need a run as he hadn’t had a trial but when I legged Grant (Cooksley) on I told him his work had been first-class,” she said.
“He has been in work the whole time but since the firm ground can tickle him up you just have to look after him and wait until he tells you he’s right.
“He’s done that recently so we’re back racing again.”
Cooksley had Seventh Up lobbing along nicely towards the rear of the seven-horse field throughout the early stages of the open 1400m contest before moving him into a challenging position. Asked to sprint at the 300m mark Seventh Up lengthened nicely to quickly take control before easing to the line under a hands and heels ride to score by a neat length from race favourite Cote D’Or.
Although Hale is keen to make it back to back victories in the time-honoured Easter mile she does harbour thoughts of a more immediate goal for her charge.
“The Easter is definitely a goal, but we’ll just see how he does this week,” she said.
“We might have a go at the Group Two race next weekend.”
Hale was referring to the Gr.2 Windsor Park Stud Japan Trophy (1600m) that will be held at Matamata after Racing Tauranga had to transfer both of their back-to-back Saturday meetings due to issues with the surface at its traditional Gate Pa venue.
The Auckland Racing Club’s Gr.2 Easter Handicap (1600m) will be run at Pukekohe on 21 April due to the track renovation programme that commenced at Ellerslie following the conclusion of their Auckland Cup Week carnival last week.