Fruitful win for Cleese in Kiwifruit Cup

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  • June 27, 2023
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A change in venue proved fruitful for Cleese on Saturday, with the local galloper taking out the Seeka Kiwifruit Cup (2000m) at Cambridge.

Originally set to take place at Tauranga, the meeting was transferred to Cambridge’s synthetic surface earlier in the week due to track conditions and the inclement weather forecast.

Cleese had won his only start on the surface last year and trainer John Bell welcomed the venue change.

“It (venue change) had to happen,” Bell said.

“Tauranga would have been abandoned and everyone would have missed out. Half of the Tauranga fields got a run and there were horses in there that trainers gave their first try on the poly.

“Half of the people would have been happy and the other not, but they have got facilities there to cater for this and there were still seven races, so people would have had a bet and a bit of fun.

“My syndicate were over the moon. A lot of them are from Taupiri Rugby Club and evidently, they blew the roof off it, so it was a great thrill for them.”

Cleese dominated the race and kept his unbeaten polytrack record intact with a 4-3/4 length victory and Bell said he would have expected a similar result at Tauranga.

“When the two youngsters took off in front, he just sat in behind and did a great job. He has been working really well and I think he would have done a similar job on the grass at Tauranga,” he said.

Bell is now pondering the future with the son of Sweet Orange and he may look to early spring targets with the gelding.

“He will hopefully go to better winter surfaces for a few weeks and then bring him back for late winter and early spring,” he said.

“We will just chew over it for the next few days.”

Meanwhile, Bell is looking to return to Taranaki next month with his Group One performer Helena Baby to defend his title in the Listed Opunake Cup (1400m).

The eight-year-old gelding has a strong record in the race, having won both of his attempts at the Taranaki feature, and Bell is hoping he can extend it to three this year.

“We do quite well down in Taranaki,” he said. “He won the Opunake Cup last year and also before he went to Hong Kong.”

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