Cambridge trainer Lauren Brennan sealed a start in the Gr III $100,000 Waikato Times Gold Cup (2400m) with Savanah Rush after the Savabeel mare produced a strong staying win at Pukekohe on Saturday.
Expertly ridden by Mark Du Plessis, Savanah Rush made it successive wins after scoring over 2100m at Te Rapa at her previous start then made no bones about the step up to 2400m with her narrow win over Medici in the Rating 85 contest.
''Definitely the Waikato Cup now,'' Brennan said afterwards.
''We'll be assured of a start now but she should still get in with a nice light weight.''
Bred by Jen Campin and raced by the Jen Campin Racing Syndicate No 1, Savanah Rush has now won six of her 28 starts and holds entries for the Gr II City Of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on January 1, the Gr II Wellington Cup (2400m) at Trentham on January 26 and the Gr I Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on March 6.
The Waikato Times Gold Cup is run at Te Rapa on December 15.
Also at Pukekohe, Estrato took advantage of the late scratching of hot favourite Thunderbird One to win the $40,000 Franklin Long Roofing 1600 for rider Michael Coleman.
The Peter and Jacob McKay-trained Stratum four-year-old gelding had run second to Thunderbird One at Te Rapa at his previous start but always looked poised on Saturday, though he was headed by Capone in the closing stages and had to fight back for a spirited head win.
Peter McKay will now consider stepping Estrato up to a middle distance.
''I thought last season he could be a good horse but I think now if he's going to be a good horse it's going to be at distances longer than a mile,'' McKay said.
Estrato, who was a stakes winner over 1100m at Te Rapa as a two-year-old, has now won five of his 19 starts and returned a cheque in 14 of those races.
Earlier, Moneytree opened the programme with a strong win for rider Opie Bosson and Te Awamutu trainers Keithand Brendon Hawtin.
The Captain Rio four-year-old gelding overcame a wide draw to score a comfortable 1 3/4-lengths win.
Keith Hawtin said he had a good opinion of Moneytree and believed he could develop into a handy stayer next season.
The Hawtins enjoyed further success at Te Rapa on Sunday with Sophie's Gem deadheating a maiden sprint with the Peter and Dawn Williams-trained Thebestofyou.
Back at Pukekohe, Parnell Prince continued to embellish his good record, winning a Rating 75 1600m event for rider Noel Harris and Te Aroha trainer Louise McGregor.
It was the Keeper gelding's fourth win from 18 starts but his second from his last three starts this spring.
The final race at Pukekohe was taken out by the Jan McGiven-trained Princess Kyoto in the hands of Lynsey Satherley, the Shinko King six-year-old mare racking up her third win from 18 starts.
Vinnie Colgan and Daniel Johnson were suspended for six and five days respectively for careless riding, with Colgan set to miss the ride on Durham Town in the Gr II Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie on December 8.
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