Alan Tait is hoping Southern Icon’s win at Te Rapa on Saturday signals a major turnaround in the sprinter’s fortunes.
The Matamata horseman produced the Big Brown gelding for a successful defence of his Group One Turf Bar title, but last year’s success had a shocking sequel.
“He got a virus and that was the end of his season,” Tait said. “He showed so much ability and we tried to patch him up, but it was no go.”
That illness halted a run of four successive wins from Southern Icon, who until then had been on a path toward the Group 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate and the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes, to be run next season at Hastings as the Tarzino Trophy.
After the five-year-old’s slick display on Saturday, those races will be back on the agenda.
Southern Icon worked his way to his customary role in front after 800m and he held a strong gallop under jockey Mark Hills, who has been aboard in seven of the horse’s eight wins, to hold his rivals at bay.
Tait said he had been more hopeful than confident going into the race.
“I just hoped he was back to where he was,” he said.
Southern Icon had a length and a half to spare at the post with Biggin Hill getting home late for second and Kitaya produced a solid effort for third in his New Zealand debut for Matamata trainer Danica Guy.
The well-travelled Irish-bred gelding was a Group Three winner and Group One placed in France before he transferred to Hong Kong where he won twice at Happy Valley.