Military Move is some gift horse.
The 2010 New Zealand Derby winner was returned to Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie free of charge, once he appeared to have reached his mark in Hong Kong.
Military Move has won twice since resuming his New Zealand career in April and put himself in the frame for the Wellington and Auckland Cups with a narrow but convincing victory in the Manawatu Cup (2300m) at Awapuni yesterday.
Ritchie prepared Military Move to win the NZ Derby at Ellerslie for Hong Kong owner Steven Lo, who then sent the horse to Hong Kong.
Military Move won twice in Hong Kong but his form started to fall away and he had his last Hong Kong start in July, 2012.
"He was still sound but the owner decided to replace him with better horses," Ritchie said.
"He [Lo] has got some very good horses over there."
Seven-year-old Military Move is now raced by Ritchie's wife, Alison, in partnership with Belinda Bellingham and Sally Anderson.
Bellingham's husband, Paul, serves as Lo's racing manager and was responsible for Ritchie getting the horse in the first instance.
Military Move was also the runner-up to Katie Lee in the Two Thousand Guineas during his first stint in New Zealand and Ritchie has never doubted his quality.
"He's a Derby winner and they don't get any better than that. Class is permanent but the pleasing thing is that he still wants to win.
"When horses return from Hong Kong, some seem to lose that desire to win.
"It's also nice to get a good horse back from Hong Kong, rather than the traffic going in the opposite direction, as is usually the case today."
Ritchie took a leaf out of Chris Waller's book when Military Move rejoined his stable.
"When Chris gets horses from England he usually gives them a light prep, without racing them or with just one race and then puts them out and that's what I did with this horse.
"I gave him one run [in April], when he struggled, and then put him out and he has been a different horse this preparation."
Military Move was unplaced over 1400m fresh-up, in October, but then won an open handicap at Awapuni last month.
Yesterday's race was his first for almost six weeks but he had a trial earlier in the month and Ritchie was certain the horse had improved markedly with his previous run.
"He has improved quite a bit with each race and that was a good effort today, with 58kg."
Military Move performs best when his races are spaced and he is unlikely to tackle the City Of Auckland Cup on January 1.
Instead, Ritchie will back himself to get Military Move ready for the Wellington Cup (2400m), on January 25, without another run, with the Auckland Cup - "weight permitting" - another likely target.
Military Move, the second favourite, was given a lovely run by Jonathan Riddell and kicked again when favourite Who Shot Thebarman produced a late challenge.
● Weregoingtogetcha reignited his New Zealand Derby prospects when he came from last to win the $20,000 three-year-old 1400m, at the expense of odds-on pop Kawi.
Weregoingtogetcha, a good-looking son of Testa Rossa, appeared above average as a juvenile but has mixed his form as a three-year-old.
He won at Hawera as a two-year-old and finished second to Orbity in the Listed Ryder Stakes at Awapuni in July.
His spring prospects were hampered by a sprained fetlock and he was also caught wide when he took on the top three-year-olds for the first time, in the Two Thousand Guineas at Riccarton.
He was having his first start for more than a month when the runner-up in rating 65 company at Hastings on December 12 and showed the benefit yesterday.
Though Kawi was held up for a run in the straight, Weregoingtogetcha was impressive and won comfortably.
He was still a clear last in the nine-horse field at the 600m but produced a sustained finish.
"He's a very nice horse," rider Kelly Myers said.
Weregoingtogetcha is trained and part-owned by Englishman David Hayes who is keen to give his stable star some experience right-handed before the derby.
"We will probably concentrate on the Avondale Guineas [at Ellerslie on February 15] now," Hayes said. Kawi, who had beaten Recite at his previous start, had a good run till the turn but was tightened at the top of the straight and then had to change ground a couple of times to get a run. "Nothing went right," said rider Jonathan Riddell.
- © Fairfax NZ News