Vigor Winner may not have got the results his connections were looking for in Australia last season, but the trip across the Tasman has been the making of the now four-year-old according to trainer Lauren Brennan.
He won three of his four starts in New Zealand, including dead-heating the Gr.3 Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes (1200m), before finishing unplaced in his two Australian starts.
“He has improved from the trip away,” Brennan said. “Both jockeys said give him six months and he will be a different horse.
“He didn’t disgrace himself in Australia, it made him anyway. He has come back much stronger, both mentally and physically.”
His performance at the Te Rapa trials on Tuesday mirrored those thoughts, with the son of Declaration of War finishing strongly to win his 880m heat by a head over Queen Of The Air.
“I just said to Sam (Spratt, jockey) I wanted to let him do it on his own steam, have an easy day out, and not to pressure him,” Brennan said.
“He was quite impressive, he is more forward than I thought he was.”
Vigor Winner will likely tackle elite level company first-up next month in the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings.
“He will press ahead for the Windsor Park Plate on the second day at Hastings,” Brennan said.
“It’s a little bit tight going into it, we have got to give him time between races, so we will probably trial him again and then run him.”
Another stable runner that will likely head to Hastings for the Spring carnival is stakes winner Magnum.
The seven-year-old gelding dead-heated with Dawn Patrol in their 880m heat and Magnum is now set to follow an identical path as he did at the start of last season.
“I just wanted to give him a good hit-out at the trials and I was really happy with him. He always tries,” Brennan said.
“He is going to run at Ruakaka on the 31st (of August) in an open sprint. The Red Badge Sprint (Gr.3, 1400m) will be his next start (at Hastings on October 5). He ran third in that race last year, so he will go for that again this year.”
Meanwhile, Brennan was pleased with the return of Aim Smart on Tuesday where he finished runner-up in his 880m heat.
“He has had a long spell, it’s been nearly a year since he has hit the track, so I was really happy with his trial,” Brennan said.
“We just wanted to see where he was at fitness-wise. Opie (Bosson, jockey) was happy with him and we’ll probably give him another trial before he runs.”
The Group Three performer hasn’t been sighted on race day since September last year and Brennan is looking forward to his return to the races later this spring after a lengthy recovery period from surgery.
“He had a couple of stress fractures in his hocks, so he had some screws put in,” she said.
“He was off for a long time and has just taken time to get back into it. We were making sure he was 100 percent before he was brought back into work.
“It was worth a shot having the surgery because he is such a talented horse and he has shown it last season.
“Hopefully he will stay happy and sound and we’ll just have to wait and see and take it race by race.
“We haven’t specifically aimed for anything right now. He wants a good track anyway, so we have got a little bit of time, we won’t run him unless they are dead to good tracks.” – NZ Racing Desk