Trainer Shaune Ritchie believes he has a handy three-year-old on his hands after Whiskey broke his maiden status with an impressive victory over 1200m at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Ritchie, who prepares the son of Burgundy with training partner Colm Murray at their Cambridge base, was confident his charge was a good winning chance at just his second raceday run despite tackling older horses and the tricky Heavy10 surface on offer.
“I thought he would definitely handle the ground as he had won with authority on similar going when he won his trial at Ellerslie before we lined him up at Ruakaka,” Ritchie said.
“He ran fourth on debut at Ruakaka and although he was beaten by nearly eight lengths, it was still a good effort.
“He ran into Kenny Rae’s pair in Dream Queen and Follow Your Dreams, who are both very nice horses and I don’t think he was disgraced.
“We knew he had improved and although he was up against the older maidens, which can be tough for a new three-year-old, I thought he was in with a pretty good chance.”
Ritchie was delighted to see the general improvement in the horse’s racing manners although he was left holding his breath a little when Whiskey decided to take a few wayward steps for rider Sam Weatherley when he hit the front with 200m to run.
“Sam rode the horse well and, in the end, the loose track suited him,” he said.
“I guess you can say his ringcraft does need to improve a little as he looked like he had been drinking a bit of what he is named after, but I have no doubt that it will.
“The best part was he found the line strongly and with his long stride he is going to be effective on firmer tracks as well.”
Ritchie will now monitor the recovery rate of his charge with an eye on a start in the Listed HS Dyke Wanganui Guineas (1340m) on September 4 as his next assignment.
“I don’t really want to go to Ruakaka or Hastings with him so a race like the Wanganui Guineas looks ideal,” he said.
“Although he comes from a real sprinting family, I think he can get a little further later in the season so races like the Karaka Million 3YO (1600m) might not be out of the question.”
Purchased for $21,000 out of the Brighthill Farm draft at the 2020 Karaka Yearling Sale, Whiskey is out of Pins mare Likeapins and comes from an extended family that includes stakes winners Emily Margaret and Seven Schillings along with Kajema, who was placed three times at Group One level.
Ritchie also advised the stable would again be taking a team up to Ruakaka this month for some beach work, including promising four-year-old stayer Shockallia.
“We have traditionally taken a team up to Ruakaka for a month or so as we get them ready for spring and summer racing,” he said.
“We will be doing the same this year and most of them will trial there at the end of the month.
“Shockallia is one we are taking and we have high hopes for him.
“He was put aside after a few little niggles last season but has come back to us from Rich Hill Stud in terrific order.
“I think he could be a Cup horse in the summer so he will have a good, slow build-up before we see him on the track later in the spring.”