It was business as usual for team Mufhasa at Awapuni where the two-time New Zealand Horse of the Year was back at the top of his game yesterday.
The 8-year-old son of Pentire furthered his already formidable record with a commanding performance in the group three Tod Seeds Manawatu WFA Challenge Stakes off the back of defeats in his two lead-up runs.
Trainer Stephen McKee said a combination of improved underfoot conditions and the drop back in distance had paved the way for Mufhasa to post the 20th victory - 10 of them at the highest level - of his career.
"He was back on a good track and his sprint lasts that bit longer. He was very fit and with that bit of age in his legs he's better-suited by the drop back to 1400 metres."
Mufhasa had finished fourth in the Listed Stella Artois Tauranga Stakes and runner-up in the group one Westbury Stud Captain Cook Stakes in his two prior runs over 1600 metres. Both times he had been hampered by the dead going.
On a Good3 track he made his way to the front and was under a decent hold at the top of the straight. When asked for a serious effort 200 metres out he lengthened stride and drew clear for a handsome victory.
"I was swinging on him turning for home and it was a huge effort - it's like a group one," rider Sam Spratt said. "It's just a privilege to ride him."
Gary Vile turned back the clock on his home track yesterday for a memorable second victory in the group three Manawatu Cup.
The Awapuni horseman saddled the favourite Ransomed and despite the pre-race plan coming unstuck early on it was a case of all's well that ends well.
Vile had won the event in 2005 with All Square and counted himself unlucky not to have repeated that effort two years later when his talented but injury-prone stayer finished runner-up to Nanjara.
"He was a good but unsound horse and he had nearly a year off after his first Manawatu Cup win," Vile said. "We set him for it again in 2007, but he hit the front a tad early and got run down by a head."
A close finish went Vile's way this time in the feature when Ransomed produced a sustained finishing run from the back of the field to follow up his opening day victory in the cup prelude.
"He wasn't supposed to be that far back and I had my heart in my mouth," he said.
"It's very hard in a big cup race to get back and come over the top of them and he was unknown at the distance (2300m), but once they turned for home and he got balanced he was never going to get beaten."
Ransomed settled in the last couple on a slow early pace before rider Johnathon Parkes urged him forward across the top. They finished resolutely to account for Medici by a short neck and the frontrunner Palm Island kicked bravely for third.