Rising Tide and Waitaha Toa showed they are both right on track for important assignments at Trentham on Saturday when they fought out the finish of the Rayner Building/Rayner Decorating Handicap at Awapuni yesterday.
Rising Tide turned in an excellent dress rehearsal for the $40,000 Parliamentary Handicap (2200m) at Trentham while Waitaha Toa indicated he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the $50,000 Wellington Hurdles (3400m).
Only half a head separated the two horses at the finish of yesterday's 2100-metre event after they had a great tussle over the final stages.
Waitaha Toa, the rank outsider in the nine-horse field, looked the likely winner when he momentarily got his head in front for jockey Thomas Russell.
But Rising Tide kicked back strongly under the urgings of top female rider Lisa Allpress and got up in the deciding stride.
"It was a gutsy win," Allpress said.
"He just needed those first three runs this winter and I probably rode him a bit too handy here last time. He's better if you can hold him up a bit and I was able to do that today."
The win took Allpress's tally for the season to 148 and brought her back level with Matthew Cameron in the premiership race after he rode the winner of the opening event at yesterday's Waipa meeting.
Rising Tide is trained on the Awapuni track by Mark Oulaghan and has now won six races from just 19 starts.
The Shinko King gelding was bred by a partnership headed by Phillip Jeffreys, who operates the thoroughbred pedigree advisory business Cloughmore Pedigrees. He set up a syndicate to race the now 5-year-old, with two of the other shareholders being former Manawatu Racing Club secretary/manager Bill Freeman and Wellington journalist Kevin Kane.
Rising Tide is out of the Lord Ballina mare Ballina Wave and a half-sister to another good winter galloper in The Jungle Boy (seven wins).
Trainer Lisa Latta was rapt with Waitaha Toa's effort for second and is looking forward to getting the horse back over hurdles next Saturday.
"I've been away in Fiji on holiday but the staff said that out of all the horses in the stable he was the one that worked the best last week so he's obviously very well at the moment," Latta said.
"Mind you, he will need to be because there are some very good hurdlers around at the moment." New Plymouth apprentice Miranda Dravitzki kicked home the fourth winner of her career and her biggest to date when I Am Sam led his rivals a merry chase in the Evans Henderson Woodbridge Handicap.
Dravitzki, 24, has been race-riding for only two months and is apprenticed to her mother Sandy Dravitzki. Her previous biggest win was aboard Pasha Sumore, who is trained by her mother, in a $20,000 race at Trentham.
She took I Am Sam to an early lead in yesterday's 1400m event and kicked him four lengths clear early in the home straight. King Victor and David Walsh made a late lunge but I Am Sam held well to score by three-quarters of a length.
"As soon as he got to the front he was happy," Dravitzki said.
"I heard the other horse coming but I knew I had it covered."
I Am Sam is trained at New Plymouth by Bryce Revell, who said the Al Akbar 5-year-old will now head to the listed Opunake Cup on his home track on July 21.
Authentic Paddy is now expected to contest the Ryder Stakes at Otaki on July 28 following his gallant last-stride win in the $12,500 Rangitikei Centre Two-Year-Old Handicap at Awapuni yesterday.
Awapuni trainer Lisa Latta said, providing the big Howbaddouwantit colt continues to make good progress, he will go to the listed 1200m feature at the Levin meeting and then be turned out for a short spell.
"He's a huge 2-year-old and is going to be better at three," Latta said.
"He can go out for a brief spell after the Ryder and come back for some of the early 3-year-old races, when the sting is still out of the ground."
- Sunday Star Times