Enigmatic performer Highlad kicked off his four-year-old campaign in emphatic fashion on the weekend when he dished out a beating to his rating 75 rivals at Te Rapa.
The rangy High Chaparral gelding was making his first appearance since concluding a topsy-turvy three-year-old season that saw him win the Listed Wanganui Guineas early in his campaign before performing below his best in feature events on both sides of the Tasman.
Common to those failings was his propensity to do things wrong at crucial stages during the running, a trend that Saturday’s pilot Matt Cameron believes he may well have grown out of with some time on the side lines.
“To be fair he couldn’t have been any worse than last season,” joked Cameron after the race.
“He’s grown up a hell of a lot and was quiet before the start and settled going into the gates and during the run.
“He got a nice drag into it and has kicked away like the good horse he is.”
Cameron’s report confirmed the ease of the victory which was achieved in a no-nonsense style despite Highlad having to sit wide throughout the 1400 metre contest. Settled into a nice rhythm beyond midfield the pair bided their time before surging into contention approaching the home bend.
Such was the speed of his assault, Highlad was in front as the field straightened up and he maintained a powerful gallop to the line where he was two and half lengths to the good of Wildflower and Swinging Skirts who fought out the minor placings.
“It was a good race today and although he covered a bit of ground that was the place to be,” commented co-trainer Murray Baker.
“He’s come back well and we will just take him through the grades now with the hope he can get to open company.”
Baker was philosophical when questioned about the performance of the stable’s runners in the Gr. 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate that had been run a race earlier, with both Mime and Coldplay finishing out of the money.
“Mime faded a bit and we may not have had her ready enough,” was his blunt assessment.
“Coldplay didn’t get much of a go as she was bolting turning for home. What we do know is that they will both improve from the run.”
Despite finishing unplaced Coldplay remains one of the well supported runners at $14 on the TAB Fixed Odds market for the first Group One contest of the new season, the Tarzino Trophy that will be run at Hastings on the 2nd of September.