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 New Zealand Gallops News 
Saturday, February 18 2017

Gingernuts came from nowhere for a stunning victory in today’s Gr. 2 Retina Specialists Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie, setting up a last-minute swoop into the Vodafone New Zealand Derby.

The Iffraaj gelding is not among the nominations for the $1 million classic on March 4, and he was not even considered the most likely runner in his stable to earn a late Derby entry with his performance today. But Waikato Guineas runner-up Shocking Luck was recently sold to Hong Kong and trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards decided against running him on today’s Slow8 track, clearing the way for his unheralded stablemate to make a name for himself.

Bought by Te Akau Racing at the 2015 Ready to Run Sale for $42,500, Gingernuts had compiled a tidy record of two wins and a placing from five starts coming into today’s Guineas. But he was a $27 outsider against a star-studded field, and his prospects looked even more forlorn after he broke slowly from the extreme outside gate and found himself four lengths behind the second-last runner.

But rider Johnathan Parkes was unfazed, allowing his mount to cruise around at the tail of the 14-horse field. Parkes decided to stick to the inside around the home turn as many others went wide in search of better ground, and Gingernuts unleashed a pulverising finish. He passed every one of his rivals and crossed the finish line a length and a quarter clear.

Adding even more merit to the performance, the second, third and fourth placegetters – Charles Road, Mongolian Wolf and Redeem The Dream – were on-pace runners who set only a moderate tempo and no other runners were able to catch.

“That was a serious win,” Richards said. “I was a bit devastated to see him miss the kick, but Johnathan just took his time and took all the shortcuts and the horse finished it off really strongly.”

The win saw Gingernuts hastily added to the TAB’s fixed-odds Derby market, moving into $8 equal third favouritism alongside Camino Rocoso. Savile Row is now the favourite at $4.50, ahead of previous favourite Sacred Elixir ($5) who finished seventh this afternoon.

Gingernuts is now the winner of three of his six starts, earning $71,250 for his owners the Te Akau Gingernuts Syndicate.

“This was a serious step up today and he did it,” Richards said. “He looked like a possible Guineas horse in the spring, but he just had a little hold-up. We might have found the key to him today, he looks like a real stayer.”

Te Akau principal David Ellis confirmed that the late nomination payment of $30,003 will be made before Tuesday’s deadline.

“He’ll proceed to the New Zealand Derby, and on today’s performance he’ll be a great chance,” Ellis said. “What a thrill. Jamie and Stephen and the staff at home have done a great job with this horse.”

Four of the last five Avondale Guineas winners have gone on to win the Derby – Silent Achiever, Puccini, Mongolian Khan and Rangipo.

Today’s win continued a remarkable run of Ellerslie success for Parkes, who until Boxing Day had never won a race from more than 30 rides at the track. Since then he has won the Gr. 1 Railway Stakes on Start Wondering, the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic on Volpe Veloce, the Gr. 3 City of Auckland Cup on St Jean and today’s $100,000 feature on Gingernuts.

“He missed the kick, but I think the plan was always going to be to ride him cold,” Parkes said. “He dropped the bit and relaxed beautifully. I was thinking about going wide to make my run, but then I could see the others start to head out that way. I stuck to the inside and he finished it off really well.

“I think he’ll have no trouble seeing out the 2400 metres. He settles beautifully.”

Runner-up Charles Road delighted his connections with today’s performance, now boasting a record of five starts for a win and four seconds. Today’s performance earned him a ballot exemption from the Derby.

“He was very game today,” co-trainer Andrew Scott said. “We were a bit surprised he ended up in such a forward position, but he stuck it out outstandingly well. On that performance you’d have to carry on to the Derby with him. He’s only going to improve.”

Scott was also pleased with the effort of stablemate Cha Siu Bao, who finished sixth, saying the son of Smart Missile is “just looking for better ground”.

The $2.30 favourite Sacred Elixir appeared to be travelling well as he made a wide move rounding the home turn, but he lacked the powerful finish he showed in Brisbane last winter and in Melbourne in the spring.

"We had a nice run into the race," rider Leith Innes said. "We came out and he was just a bit one-paced on the slow track."

Posted by: AT 06:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email