Southern Heights strides on from Alignadreams. www.raceimages.co.nz
Fresh in condition after contesting the New Zealand Oaks to end her three-year-old campaign in March, Southern Heights (4 Br. M. Align – Alpine Beauty, by Khozaam) displayed attributes akin to reaching a higher grade when taking out the Ireland Contractors Rating 70 over 1400-metres at Gisborne on Friday.
Trained by Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen for racing enthusiasts Andrew Lockyer and Charlie White, the long-striding mare still has a ways to go before furnishing her sizeable frame yet harbours an athleticism that suggests with time she is capable of securing a nice race.
A Maiden win in driving fashion over a mile on good footing at Tauherenikau in February set in motion an Oaks preparation, a race in which she had no luck when posted wide.
Given some equestrian tutelage before a quiet trial, Southern Heights seemed focussed during the prelim for her resuming assignment and raced professionally for rider Mark Hills.
After settling sixth of eight on the rail, she eased off the fence with purpose at the 600m before challenging three wide on the home turn. She lengthened appreciably to lead a furlong out and sustained a big finish to win by one-length over another mare by Align (Night Shift), Alignadreams.
The pair finished well in advance of the remainder, headed by Little Turbo (Express Duke), with the winning time for 1400m 1:23.41.
Backed heavily approaching the start, Southern Heights justified her favouritism to return $3.70 & $1.40.
The victory by Southern Heights started a roll for the Hastings stable and they completed a hat-trick by winning the following two races at the Poverty Bay Turf Club.
Jockey Masa Tanaka took full advantage of an economical trip when squeezing through along the rail to gain a last stride victory aboard Elusive Dreams (5 B. M. Elusive City – Dopff, by Tights) in the John Coates & Associates Rating 80 over 1400-metres.
Second-up from a spell for the Chats Syndicate, J C Heaphy, T W Klingender, T V Rider & A J Scott, Elusive Dreams has now won three of her seven starts.
Her dam, top-class race mare Dopff, was a group two mile winner at Ellerslie and still holds the track record for 1400-metres at Te Rapa when winning a listed race in 1:20.42 on December 12 1993. The time was also a national record until being surpassed by Mr Dexter (Danasinga) at Riccarton in 2007 when he clocked 1:20.21.
Of Elusive Dreams, Lowry had said previously, “She’s a prime example of a mare with average ability that knows when to try, and a lot of them don’t.”
Within a lifetime spent tending horses, Lowry occupied the position of stable foreman for the legendary trainer Bart Cummings for four years.
Lowry shares in the ownership of Mink (3 Br. F. Scardee Cat – Zazu, by Rhythm) with Mark Chittick of Waikato Stud, who became the third of the three winners.
On debut at her previous start, Mink was considered by the stable to be a better proposition than her 70-1 quote, and raced as though she could have been far more competitive than her final placing of fifth if not for being trapped very wide throughout.
Given an ideal passage on this occasion, handy on the outer, by rider Tasha Collett, Mink always appeared as though the finishing burst she mounted in centre track was going to get her home, and she collared the debutante Xerxes (Lord Of Warriors) to win the Nutrex NZ Ltd 3YO Maiden over 1200-metres by a half-head.
A half-sister to Bally Duff (O’Reilly), who was sold to Hong Kong for a consideration sum and now races as Roma Thunder, Mink appears to have the aptitude to eke out more wins.
The three wins on the programme took Lowry closer to a training milestone of one-hundred wins, with his current tally now 97.