The ice-cool trio of Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman and jockey Opie Bosson were in white-hot form at Pukekohe on Saturday, writes Aidan Rodley.
Good things come to those who wait.
It's a well-worn adage in racing but for a while, on Saturday, Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman were wondering if there was even any substance to it.
The training duo had to grit their teeth and shrug off setbacks in consecutive races at Pukekohe.
Firstly the well-backed Carbide smashed his mouth against the gates, then after the club vet had given him clearance to start, he tailed the field home by 100 lengths with a later inspection showing he had a tooth hanging on by a thread.
The following race, hot favourite Thunderbird One lashed out as she was being loaded into the barriers leading to her being late scratched.
"Something had to go right," Baker said.
That comment followed a gallant win from classy Savabeel mare Lady Kipling in the Gr II $100,000 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1400m).
Two races later, the country's leading stable were again to the fore when Jeu de Cartes claimed the feature Gr II $100,000 Counties Cup (2100m).
The Gr II double, both ridden by white-hot jockey Opie Bosson, added to a spectacular start of the season for Baker and Forsman, who have established a six-win lead on the trainers' premiership.
Baker sticks to the line that a trainer is only as good as his horses but seldom is he without a top horse - and both Lady Kipling and Jeu de Cartes fit comfortably into that category.
Saturday's win was Lady Kipling's second at Gr II level, with Baker immediately afterwards declaring the Gr I Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on December 8 as her next target.
After a rethink, Baker yesterday said it was more likely the five-year-old Savabeel mare would head to Te Rapa to defend her crown in the Gr II $85,000 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) a week later.
"She's had three Gr I placings but she's got very strong now. She's a lovely mare with a good temperament and she's very pliable - you can put her anywhere in a race," he said.
Bosson settled Lady Kipling just in behind the leaders and always had her in contention, though inside the last 100m Miss Pelear headed her and looked set to win.
However, Lady Kipling fought back and took the honours, with both Baker and Bosson suggesting the mare hadn't seen her rival coming.
"She's got the blinkers on and she might not have seen the other horse," Baker said.
"I think he was kidding 50m from home, the great rider that Opie is, and saved her for the final bit.”
Bosson said Lady Kipling had fought back strongly once she caught sight of Miss Pelear and proved her superiority.
Saturday's win was Lady Kipling's ninth from 26 starts and took her earnings past $300,000.
Te Awamutu trainer Keith Hawtin was delighted with Miss Pelear's effort for second and took solace for the defeat in that he part-owns a half-sister to Lady Kipling, Lady Chapel.
"She deserved a crack. I thought she'd measure up because I've always thought she was a Group horse," Hawtin said.
He had initially planned to go to the Captain Cook Stakes but yesterday said Miss Pelear would now head to the Cal Isuzu Stakes.
Guiseppina ran a typically honest race for third, three-quarters of a length further back. Trainer Steven Ramsay said yesterday she had come through the race well and would head to Trentham for the Captain Cook Stakes. Final Touch was fourth ahead of Lunar Eclipse.
Baker, Forsman and Bosson's day only got better with Jeu de Cartes' defiant Counties Cup win.
Bosson was again at his best as he had Jeu de Cartes beautifully positioned and settled and though she hit the front inside the final 200m and gave the swoopers their chance to run her down, the Stravinsky mare stuck grimly to her task.
"This is a good mare. It's a great effort to carry 57kg as a five-year-old mare," Baker said.
"She fought bravely. It was another top ride from Opie. Today he showed why he's the best.”
Baker had been critical of the handicapping of Jeu de Cartes, who risen sharply up the weights through Listed wins at two of her three leadup starts, but yesterday said she was still likely to head to the Gr III $100,000 Waikato Times Gold Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa on December 15 for her next start.
"She's going to have weight now unfortunately. I thought she was pretty severely handicapped as it was and it's debatable she's good enough for weight-for-age against those hardened geldings."
Bred and raced by Billie Morton, who also bred and raced the mare's Gr I Australian Derby-winning half-brother Nom du Jeu, Jeu de Cartes' win was her ninth from 21 starts and took her earnings past $191,000.
"She's going to be a good stud mare now," Baker said.
"She's a Gr II winner and she’s from a good family. She's a half-sister to Nom du Jeu so she’s got a bit going for her."
Rookie trainer Forsman enjoyed his best day in his new role, the Gr II double adding to his earlier Group success with Neo in the Gr II Wellington Guineas and the reflected glory from Dundeel's Gr I Spring Champion Stakes win in Sydney.
"All's well that ends well," Forsman said, though he admitted he was still gutted at the Thunderbird One's late scratching, suggesting he had the potential to be ‘‘the best of them all".
Despite the closeness of the finish, with fellow Cambridge mare Arcenciel finishing strongly to only go down by a neck, Baker and Forsman watched the race motionless and emotionless, never moving to urge their mare on or to even to celebrate her win.
It's that unflappable nature of not only the master trainer and his protege, but also the coolness of their jockey-of-choice Bosson, that has marked their success this season.
Jeu de Cartes' win was Bosson's seventh in the space of 10 rides and his second at Gr II level. He added to the haul at Te Rapa yesterday to take his season tally to 37 and surge into second place on the jockeys' premiership.
"I got a beautiful run and she just lobbed along off the bit. It's a big weight in a race like this so for her to carry 57kg and win, it's a really good effort," Bosson said of Jeu de Cartes. Arcenciel hit the line nicely for second, a long head clear of Nicole Amy, who in turn was a nose ahead of Annie Higgins, who had led after a midrace move from rider Craig Grylls.
Fiorano and Boninsky were fifth and sixth but both were still within a length of Jeu de Cartes.
Baker, who had considered Jeu de Cartes for yesterday's Ballarat Cup as an alternative to the Counties Cup, paid tribute to Forsman afterwards.
"He's great, Andrew. He understands the game. He works it out and he's got a big future," Baker said.
- © Fairfax NZ News