An inch-perfect ride by Leith Innes saw him guide race-favourite Felaar to a brave victory in Saturday’s Listed Royston Hospital Hawke’s Bay Cup (2200m) at Hastings.
Touted as a stayer of real potential, Felaar had finished runner-up in the Bay Of Plenty Cup at his last start after defeating Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2200m) winner Rock On at Otaki prior to that.
On the strength of those performances, Punters installed the Ekraar gelding as favourite for Saturday’s contest, slightly ahead of Gr.3 Counties Cup (2100m) winner Igraine.
Allowed to settle in mid-field by Innes, who had to waste hard to make the 53kg weight carried by his mount, Felaar bided his time before sweeping into contention approaching the home bend.
Igraine, who had tracked the pace throughout, had shot to the front at that point and was being hailed the winner before Innes asked the Stephen Marsh-trained five-year-old for a final effort as he drove past Igraine in the final few strides to claim the win.
Innes was rapt with the performance although he had thoughts of a bigger winning margin approaching the home turn.
“The way he was travelling I thought we would be winning it by two or three lengths when we turned for home,” he said.
“To the mare’s credit (Igraine) she really fought back well and made it pretty close. In saying that she is a very good horse so for him to get up and win is a good achievement.”
Innes also admitted he had found it hard getting down to the 53kg weight for the mount although the incentive of riding the horse had made it worth the battle.
“It was bloody tough alright,” he said.
“I was doing it hard all week, but I knew I really wanted to ride him as he has so much potential.
“He’s still a big baby really and learning all the time, but when he puts it all together, he will be a very good horse.
“I’m not sure what plans they have for him but to my mind he wouldn’t be out of place over in Brisbane this winter.”
Marsh reiterated Innes’ comments regarding the potential of his charge.
“He really is still learning so it makes a decision on what we do with him next a little harder,” he said.
“He does look like a good candidate for some of the staying races in Brisbane but the right thing to do might be to keep him home, keep progressing slowly with him and wait for a serious attack in the spring.
“I’m just not sure at this stage but the win today will definitely help him up the learning curve.”
Owned by Sir Peter Vela, Leo Molloy and Marsh himself, Felaar has now won four of his 19 starts. – NZ Racing Desk