Favourites tag a fair fit for Pitman fancies

  • user
  • June 26, 2023
  • No Comments

Five races, five favourites – that’s the scenario for Riccarton trainers Michael and Matthew Pitman ahead of their hometrack meeting on Saturday. Now the task is finding five winners.

“Hopefully the bookmakers are good judges,” Michael Pitman said.

“With a few racing on Saturday, it really depends on how they handle the track as to whether they carry on or have a bit of a break. But we’ve got a really nice team for Saturday.”

Among the leading chances is stable newcomer Sea Shepherd, who has joined the Pitman team from Invercargill trainer Sabin Kirkland, who is holidaying in Europe.

The Zacinto four-year-old has won six of his 21 starts and will attempt to complete a hat-trick of wins when he tackles the Greenwood Amberley Cup (1600m) as a $2.50 favourite.

“Sabin asked me a couple of months ago to take him because he was going away. We trained Eel Win and Final Reality for Sabin before and had good success for him so hopefully it carries on with this horse,” Pitman said.

“He’s settled in really well. He’s doing well. He hasn’t got the greatest record at Riccarton but he’s in top form and we’re thinking if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, so we haven’t changed anything. Corey Campbell knows the horse and he’s riding him again.

“We just want to settle well and get an economical run so he can do his best work at the finish.”

Sea Shepherd is one of three Pitman entries for the Gr.3 Winning Edge Presentations 126th Winter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton on August 5, along with Wild Rover and Proserve, that pair also in action at Riccarton on Saturday.

Last-start Wingatui winner Wild Rover tackles the Taggart Earthmoving (1400m) as a $4 equal favourite, again for rider Kavish Chowdhoory, and the Pitmans are expecting another bold run.

“He hadn’t had a lot of luck just through bad draws and having to do too much work but the other day, he just got the run of the race and showed what he can do. It was a very good ride from Kavish,” Pitman said.

“He’s trained on well and from a good draw (3), he should go close to winning again.”

The Pitmans will saddle a trio of runners in the Bain McCall Memorial (1000m) but it’s clear that three-length last-start maiden winner Mystic Park, an Ocean Park three-year-old gelding having just his third start on Saturday as a $2.70 favourite, is the leading fancy ahead of Kapalka and Makabar.

Several of the newly-minted races slated for the new season, such as a $1 million four-year-old race at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night in January or a $350,000 race exclusively for South Island-trained horses over 1600m at Riccarton next April, could beckon Mystic Park next season.

“He’s a really nice horse. With the new races NZTR announced last week, that’s the type of races eventually he’ll be heading towards,” Pitman said.

“There’s been a lot of interest for him, including from Hong Kong. He should have won first-up but was only narrowly beaten and he won nicely last start.

“He’s a really smart horse and he’s not useless on wet ground either. We’re hoping he can get away with it over 1000m at Riccarton in 65 grade.”

The Pitmans also have three in the Daphne Bannan Memorial (1200m), with the well-performed trio of $4.20 favourite Okay Pal, Golden Harvest and Benaud giving the stable a strong hand in the sprint feature.

“Okay Pal has come through his last win really well. He looks so good at the moment too, more like a horse preparing for the New Zealand Cup carnival, not the Winter Cup carnival,” Pitman said.

“Golden Harvest hasn’t been given any chance in his last two races but we know what he’s capable of and Benaud, we don’t know what went wrong last start but he’s a better chance when he races in open air and he’ll get that from barrier 11 of 11. But even with 60 kilos, we think Okay Pal is the best of ours.”

Pitman wasn’t sure whether Proserve would progress towards the Winter Cup but said he’d take a guide from how he runs in the Jon Snow & Echoes Of Heaven @ Clearview Park (2000m), where he comes up against stablemate Star Ballot, a $6 equal second favourite to his stablemate at $3.50.

“Proserve and Star Ballot do most of their work together and there’s very little between them,” Pitman said.

“On a heavy track, Proserve might be the better horse. He’s won both starts we’ve given him over ground. He’s a big horse, one of the biggest trained at Riccarton, and he’s finally hitting his straps. He’s only a four-year-old so he’s got it all ahead of him. He might be a New Zealand Cup horse yet.”

Meanwhile, Pitman was thrilled with the stakes increases announced last week, suggesting it could really boost racing in the south.

“It’s great. It’s been a long time coming. In a perfect world, I’d have loved to have seen the minimum stakes go to $20,000 but feature maidens have gone to $25,000 so it’s swings and roundabouts,” Pitman said.

“I’m a little surprised they increased the Group One races by $100,000 because that won’t be enough to keep horses here. We know money has to go into tracks getting done up and towards certain other costs but extra stakes gives a little hope to everyone racing horses and that’s what we do, sell hopes and dreams.” – LoveRacing.NZ News Desk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.