Taranaki trainer Allan Sharrock wasn't the only person shaking his head in disbelief after his Auckland Cup winner Shez Sinsational won the Stewart Browne Group 1400 at Gate Pa last Saturday.
Having her first run since taking the Group I Ellerslie feature six weeks earlier and dropping back from 3200-to-1400m, Shez Sinsational wasn't expected to win the $15,000. In fact Sharrock would have been happy to see her running on into the minor money.
But the class of Shez Sinsational came through big time as she charged down the outside in the hands of Cambridge apprentice Michael McNab to win by a head from Acapela, who looked to have the race won when she dived between runners inside the final 150m.
"She's something special all right," said Sharrock. "It was just like a trial for her. Just imagine what she's going to do when she gets a distance to suit."
Making the trip north especially for the race was Sharrock's father, Bob, who is a part-owner of the Ekraar mare but had missed her recent big wins because of ill-health.
Sitting in the winner's room after the race Bob Sharrock admitted to getting a special thrill from seeing Shez Sinsational win. "Not many can come back from two miles and win their next race at 1400," he said. "We're having a lot of fun with her."
"She's definitely the best horse I've ridden," said jockey McNab. "I've never ridden a racehorse like her. When I kicked her up at the 600 she just eased into it then when I asked her to fight in the straight she picked up again and went. This is my biggest thrill."
Shez Sinsational is booked to be flown to Brisbane next Sunday and as planned will tackle the group two A$300,000 Hollindale Cup on the Sunshine Coast on May 3. A fortnight later she will face her main mission, the group one A$500,000 Doomben Cup (wfa 2020m) at Doomben then complete her Queensland campaign with a start in the group two A$250,000 PJ O'Shea Stakes at Eagle Farm on June 2.
Shez Sinsational had the blinkers removed for Saturday's race, but is likely to have the headgear back on in the Hollindale Cup.
Shez Sinsational has won three group one races this season and last Saturday's triumph took her record to eight wins and nine placings from 20 starts. Though no match for Shez Sinsational in the final stages, Acapela was a brave second ahead of Demophon and John Gray.
Cambridge warhorse Chettak ended his racing career at Gate Pa just as he started it - on a high note
Chettak began his racing career with a win at Otaki on September 15, 2005 and was having his 63rd start when he he fought strongly to take the Gilmours Tauranga 2100 by a neck from the local group two winner Our Star Pupil. It was the 9-year-old's ninth win and despite the success, his connections won't be changing their minds over retirement.
"That's it," said trainer Stephen Marsh. "He won his first start and he's won his last start. It's a good way to go out. It's all gone to script."
Marsh was emotional as he walked from the stand down to the winner's enclosure. "It's the first time I've had a tear in my eye over a race," said Marsh. "He's been a special horse around the stable. He's been with us since we bought him as a yearling."
The Marsh camp was all emotional over the win and so were some of the members of the syndicate, which had made a special trip to farewell their pride and joy.
Chettak was originally raced by seven syndicate members, but a few dropped by the wayside despite the horse showing potential from the outset.
Chettak, a son of Almutawakel, won three stakes races - the Wellington Stakes, Counties Cup and Manawatu Cup - and in each of those feature wins he was ridden by Lisa Cropp, who was called up for the farewell ride last Saturday.
"Lisa has got such a great record on him and that's the reason we got her back on for this last race," said Marsh. "The old firm did it again."