A gutsy front-running effort saw tough as teak gelding Valante defy his rivals to run him down in the Orora Kiwi Packaging Kiwifruit Cup (2100m) at Tauranga.
The Graeme Lord-trained seven-year-old was niggled at in front throughout the entire 2100m journey but refused to lie down as he fought off the late challenges of The Kipling Girl and Redcayenne to take out the major spoils in the event.
Almost hoarse after cheering home his charge, Lord admitted the stars had aligned for a race he had been targeting for some time.
“The puggy track was what he had been waiting for all winter,” Lord said.
“This was one of the races I had been setting him for and when we went to Ruakaka last week it was a bit of a bonus running third. If he had of won, we knew he would still be getting into this on the minimum (weight).
“He won at Waipa a year ago on a puggy track and to have 53kgs on his back today was a bonus.
“He’s one tough boy and I’m just rapt.”
Rider Donovan Mansour admitted he wasn’t certain of victory when the challenges kept coming but praised the toughness of his mount over the concluding stages.
“He makes you earn your riding fee,” he said.
“It was very sticky out there and when those horses looked to come past me in the last 50m he actually put his head down and got to the line.
“I thought I was going have to give up the lead at one point and coming to the 800m I wasn’t confident at all.
“You’re not quite sure how well you’re going but he just dug down deep and he did it well.”
Raced by a large syndicate that includes former trainer Peter McKay, his wife Kim and Lord himself, Valante had been earmarked for a jumping career when sent to Lord but his form on the flat has seen him remain untested over fences to date where he has now picked up his sixth career victory. – NZ Racing Desk