His owner reckons he's tougher than the entire All Black scrum, so it's no wonder The Jungle Boy managed to outslog his rivals at Ellerslie yesterday, despite not having raced for more than three months.
In testing, holding conditions, the 6-year-old produced a superlative effort in his first start since the 3200m Auckland Cup to outfinish renowned mudlarks Matost and Taking The Mickey in the 1600m Chevalier Open, a tribute to the conditioning skills of his trainer Shaun Clotworthy.
But while Clotworthy's father and part-owner Kim acknowledged his son's burgeoning career, he credited the horse for surprising even his own connections.
"Ever since we broke him in he's had a tough streak. He wasn't easy to break in, we just had to be patient with him.
"If you gave me five or 10 minutes I could bring him in here," said Clotworthy as he held court in the winner's room. "But the All Black scrum couldn't push him in here if he didn't want to."
It's The Jungle Boy's toughness which both Kim and Shaun Clotworthy predict will stand to him in good stead for what will be his most testing preparation to come, plans to campaign him around Melbourne foremost on their minds.
"He was quite immature before, but he's really strengthened," said Shaun Clotworthy who admitted to being surprised at the fresh-up win, even though he knew his class had already seen him place in the New Zealand, Avondale and Wellington Cups.
"Some horses don't come right until they're five or six but people don't think that way in this day and age," said father Kim.
He said that while he was "past his use-by date", he still retained some of the cunning instilled in him by former master trainer Colin Jillings, who prepared his champion galloper Uncle Remus in the 1970s. And he would use it to good effect when he travelled with The Jungle Boy to Melbourne, probably in mid-July.
"Shaun will come and go but I'll take him over. I don't say he's up to top class but he can poke round the country cups in Melbourne. They can race for $70,000 to $100,000 over there every week, and he's slightly better going left-handed.
"He's had a couple of trips by plane to Christchurch so we know he'll handle the trip."
Clotworthy said while his son was only battling with mostly "scungy bred" older horses, he also had a few nice young ones.
And of his feat in landing the first-up win: "Shaun played a lot of top class rugby so he knows how to get himself fit. And he's an accountant so he's got more brains than his father."
Clotworthy also praised the winning ride of jockey Matt Cameron yesterday.
"The horse was well ridden – he let him find his own rhythm."
- © Fairfax NZ News