All Blacks great Colin Meads has compared winning the $1 million Karaka Million with Cambridge filly Ruud Awakening with the spoils of an unexpected test match victory.
Meads part owns the Stephen Marsh-trained Bertolini filly, who destroyed her rivals to win the blue-riband two-year-old feature, the richest race in New Zealand.
"That's as big a thrill as you can ever get in racing. It's like winning a rugby test, one that you're not going to win," Meads said.
"I've got a small share and I'm pleased to have it. She's a good horse and the trainer has done a marvellous job.
"I've read all the week about [rival connections and] what their horse is going to do and you hear from jockeys who say we've got one with a fast finish and you think 'bloody hell, maybe we shouldn't be one of the favourites'."
Meads only got involved in Ruud Awakening after replying to a newspaper advertisement for a Go Racing Syndicate placed by syndicator Albert Bosma.
Ironically, the advertisement was for a gelding named Charlestown, who ran ninth in the Karaka Million for Awapuni trainer Lisa Latta.
Bosma was thrilled to hear from Meads but when he went to inspect Charlestown, Ruud Awakening caught his eye.
"Colin said 'I like to see my horses first' so he went down and looked at Charlestown and he saw Ruud Awakening there and he rang me back and said 'look, I'll take both', so obviously he's a good judge."
Meads took the share in Ruud Awakening, while he placed his wife Verna in Charlestown.
Ruud Awakening's effort was a performance of Meads-esque dominance.
Ridden by Australian jockey Craig Williams, who replaced the filly's regular rider Jason Waddell after judicial challenge to retain the ride failed, Ruud Awakening jumped straight to the front and led throughout, increasing speed to put her rivals to the sword early in the run home.
It was the Eric Watson-bred filly's fourth win from five starts and came with a comfortable margin over Fantastic Honour, who closed gallantly for second, a short neck ahead of Touche. Keeperhot was 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth with Catalonia a meritorious fifth after copping heavy interference early in the race.
Marsh, a son of Melbourne Cup-winning jockey and Gr I-winning Singapore-based trainer Bruce Marsh, described the win as his finest moment in racing.
"Clearly the best. By a long way," Marsh said.
"I know it's easy to say but we bought her as a Karaka Million horse with Albert and the Go Racing team. I've always said right the way through there's not one thing that's gone wrong and again today she stepped up.
"She bounced and while we were always going to go forward, I didn't really expect her to lead because they usually go so hard. But she got to the front comfortably, she's got a high-cruising speed and I was very happy to see her in front travelling like that and when he let the brakes go I was even happier."
Marsh said he would give Ruud Awakening a break before bringing her back into work to prepare for the Gr I $200,000 Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on March 9.
He hasn't ruled out a Sydney campaign in the autumn, where there are several rich Gr I races on offer, including the A$3.5 million Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on April 9.
"It's always been in the back of my mind. I said to Albert if she can dominate this and go on and do the Diamond, then we could be off to Australia," said Marsh, who savoured sharing the win with his father and former training partner Bruce.
"He's rapt. We watched it together and he looked as excited as me. It's great," Marsh added.
Ruud Awakening's win was a personal triumph for Bosma, who began his rise to racing prominence with the Gr II-winning Silky Red Boxer with a syndicate whose party trick was to drop their trousers at post-race presentations to reveal their silky red boxers, once famously in front of then Prime Minister Helen Clark.
He has syndicated horses for the past eight years but said a decision to buy better quality yearlings was now paying off.
"It feels fantastic. It's been eight years of buying better horses, eight years of hard horses," said Bosma, who revealed he had won his red boxer shorts for the first time since Silky Red Boxer at Ellerslie last night.
"Three years ago we decided we needed to take that step further, buy those horses that cost a bit more. Since we've done that we've really had the success and that's been capped off tonight.
"You sit there and watch that and you just feel proud to be part of it. When she burst clear, it was an amazing feeling of pride. Pride not just in having the horse but also pride in knowing how everyone else around you is feeling. When you see her do that it sends tingles up your spine."
- © Fairfax NZ News