15 JAN 22 | NZ Racing Desk

Saturday’s Gr.2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham was a sink-or-swim moment for unbeaten three-year-old Shamus, and he rose to the challenge in superb style.

Trained by Allan Sharrock in New Plymouth for his long-time clients Noel and Ron Stanley, the son of ShamExpress had made a big impression with dominant victories in each of his first three appearances.

But Saturday’s Guineas was on a different level to anything he had come up against before, sampling the black-type waters for the first time and facing the likes of Group Two winner Pareanui Bay and Group One placegetter Shepherd’s Delight. It was the first real test of where Shamus stood among this season’s elite three-year-olds, and his performance left no doubt.

“He’s a serious racehorse,” Sharrock said. “This was the race where he had to put his hand up, and he’s done that. He’s put his hand up and said, ‘I’m the man.’ He knows he’s a good horse, he’s got a bit of a swagger.

“The Stanleys have already turned down a lot of money for this horse, and I think he’s worth even more money now.”

Patiently ridden by Hazel Schofer, Shamus settled towards the back of the Guineas field, biding his time along the rail as Sassy Merlot set a strong tempo.

Hot favourite Pareanui Bay travelled well behind the leader coming up to the turn and looked the winner at the top of the straight, but that all changed when Schofer presented Shamus to the outside and let him rip.

The gelding came with giant strides out wide and swept past Pareanui Bay to win by a length, with Sassy Merlot holding on gamely for third.

“I didn’t really want to be on the rail, but he was always going to get back and that was just where I ended up,” Schofer said. “I had a heap of horse under me, and I had enough room to get him out and let him down in the straight.

“I’ve liked him since his very first jumpout, he’s a really nice horse.”

Shamus is the latest in a long line of big-race performers for the trainer-owner combination of Sharrock and the Stanleys.

“Allan’s been training for us for over 30 years now and we’ve had some good horses together, and this is another very exciting horse,” Ron Stanley said.

“Hazel said after he won at Awapuni that she couldn’t wait to get him to Trentham to show off his gears, and that’s exactly what he did.”

The TAB moved quickly after the Guineas, slashing Shamus to outright $4.50 favouritism for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 5. Sharrock and the Stanleys previously teamed up to win the Derby with Wahid in 2006.

Shamus was bred by Jomara Bloodstock and was offered by Woburn Farm at the 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale at Karaka, where Sharrock bought him for $85,000.