The Les and Richard Didham-trained Fairlight (Rip Van Winkle) thrust her name into contention for upcoming South Island feature sprints with a comfortable victory in her open-class debut yesterday.
The Riccarton mare resumed in the Barneswood Farm Open Sprint over 1000 metres on her home turf and easily handled the jump up from Rating 75 grade.
Settled outside the pacemaker by rider Chris Johnson, the five-year-old coasted along under her own steam before Johnson asked her to quicken shortly after turning for home. Under a hands-and-heels ride, the mare glided clear of the opposition to score by a neat half-length in a time of 58.06 seconds on the Dead6 surface.
“We thought she was up to the mark to resume after she won at the Rangiora trials last month,” Richard Didham said.
“We weren’t that confident though as it was her first time in the open grade. We had planned on running her in something easier, but that race got canned so we had to step up to the big guns.
“It was nice to get the win, but it has cost her dearly in the ratings as she has copped a ten-point penalty for it. That’s going to make it harder to place her, but hopefully there are a few options over the next month or two.”
Didham is keen to see the mare take her chances in the New Zealand Cup week sprint features despite her earlier form suggesting she could stretch out to 1600 metres.
“She ran fourth in the South Island Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes over a mile in her last campaign, so we initially thought that’s the type of race we would target for her this time,” he said.
“However, with her trial and her run on Saturday we are confident she can be very competitive over the shorter trips when she is on the fresh side, so that’s what we intend to keep her to.
“Races like the Pegasus and Stewards' Stakes during Cup week look ideal and there is great money available so that is the aim now.
“There is a nice race at Ashburton in six weeks, which will be an ideal lead-in to Cup week, so I think that is where she will be heading next.”