An eventful running of the $100,000, ATC Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club Spring Preview (1400m) saw Kingsguard (NZ, by Rip Van Winkle) come out on top thanks to a brilliantly judged Jay Ford ride.
Comprising of a 10-horse field mostly made-up of two last start winners and five gallopers returning from a spell, the opening stanza of the contest was basically a typically run Saturday metropolitan handicap run at a good pace and with every runner likely to receive a fair chance of winning in the straight.
However, what subsequently eventuated was a major traffic jam 250 metres from the finishing line and the two mostly heavily backed runners in the contest losing any chance of saluting just as Kingsguard was bursting through of a narrow gap to seize the day.
Produced with precision timing by Ford, Kingsguard hit the front with 150m to race before kicking a length clear of his rivals and holding on close to the line to claim a narrow victory.
Rattling home along the fence to finish second was Tom Melbourne (Ire, by Dylan Thomas), the former Victorian-trained stayer now in the hands of Sydney champion trainer Chris Waller.
Backed into a $3.40 chance over a distance expected to prove much too short for the Irish-import to show his best, the 7-year-old was seen climbing over the heels of the leaders with nowhere to go on entering the final furlong, before flying home over the final stages when afforded a clear passage.
Kingsguard and Jay Ford, picture Stevehart.com.au
The $2.60 favourite of the event, Washington Heights had a similar sorry story to tell as that of Tom Melbourne. Ridden off the pace in the early stages and then for luck up the rail in the straight, Washington Heights encountered much the same navigational issues at a crucial time of the contest before closing for a close-up fourth.
Separating Tom Melbourne and Washington Heights in third place was the Godolphin stayer Etymology (by New Approach). Having his first start since running seventh in the 2016
Queensland Derby, the lightly-raced 5-year-old was kept out of trouble throughout the course of the race before producing a good finishing sprint and getting within half a length of recording a remarkable first-up success.
Winning rider Jay Ford explained after the race: “Obviously, we were going to be positive and hold [a position] from [barrier] one, but the speed was quite genuine in the first couple of furlongs.
“Michael [Hawkes] just said if the speed’s on, let him be where he is happy and relaxed, and he relaxed really well throughout off a nice tempo. It [the race] seemed it maintained a good gallop throughout.
“It was very brave of him; he had to go through a narrow split in the straight, but he stuck his head out and once he got through, he soldiered on to the line well.”
Ford added: “He can probably push out to 1500m or a mile, but I think that’s about it. He’s been very consistent this campaign with the odd blemish, but he’s in good form at the moment.”
Kingsguard was returned at an SP of $8.50, with the runner-up Tom Melbourne being sent off at $3.40 and the minor placegetter Etymology at $9.50.
Official distances of the race were 0.3L and 0.2L, with the winner recording the time of 1m23.02s (last 600m in 35.27).
Kingsguard races in the colours of Windsor Park Stud Ltd, co-owners in partnership with Mr S J Till, Mr J Schick, Mr M Alexander, Mrs A Alexander, Mr M C H Cross, Mrs M J Olsen and Mr P Olsen. He is trained on behalf of them by Team Hawkes.
A son of Rip Van Winkle, Kingsguard has now won four of his 19 starts and has amassed earnings of just over $233,000.
Having his first start since Christmas 2016, Sarrasin (GB) caught the eye with a sustained late finishing run from the tail of the field to claim fifth. A striking son of Monsun (sire of no less than two individual Melbourne Cup winners), the Chris Waller trained import put the writing on the wall for a highly profitable spring campaign.
Spring Preview, photo finish preview ATC