Melbourne Cup hopeful Chocante has impressed his connections with his third placing to glamour mare Winx and bold front-runner Red Excitement in the Gr.2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
"We knew he couldn't win, but we expected him to run a lot better than his price indicated ($81)," trainer Stephen Marsh said. "It was everything we hoped for and more, only Winx passed him in the straight.
"He's not a miler, it was well short of his best and he pulled up extremely well."
Jockey Rory Hutchings took a patient approach on the Shocking gelding who jumped well from gate nine to race handy throughout. He was not enticed to chase down Red Excitement whose jockey Joshua Parr set a strong pace.
"We had a good run," Hutchings said. "When Josh took off I didn't want to chase them down because he [Chocante] was coming into the race fresh with only one trial at Taupo.
"All I had in my head was to finish the best possible place on him and I thought that was to sit well back and let him get home and he did that."
Hutchings had a prime view of the wonder mare Winx as she produced a breathtaking finish to win her 19th race in succession.
"Just prior to the 200m I was just wondering where she was," Hutchings said. "I thought she would have got to me a lot sooner.
"She is the best horse in the world and to stay in front of her for that long was exceptional. She has beaten us by less than five lengths at one of her optimum distances and it's well short of Chocante's best, so that was very good.
"He is going to improve from that and I think he is in for a very good spring campaign."
Hutchings is hoping he can continue his partnership on the Brisbane Cup winner deeper into the spring. Chocante will run in the Gr.3 Kingston Town Stakes before tackling his main target of the spring later this month, the Gr.1 Metropolitan.
"He's the sort of horse that I think will get into the Metropolitan with a nice handy weight and if he happens to go well in that or win it, it's an exemption for the Melbourne Cup, so it will be exciting if I can stay on.
"Looking back at his win in the Brisbane Cup he was solid through to the line. He's probably one of the best chances you could have from New Zealand going into the race, he's tough and he'll go all day." Meanwhile, Hutchings is looking to re-establish himself in Sydney after being plagued by weight issues and suspensions in recent times.
"I'm freelancing at the moment," he said. "I'm riding a lot of work for Gerald Ryan, Mark Newnham and a couple of other Randwick trainers.
"Hopefully I can get on a bit of a roll just before the carnival starts and get back to where I was. I'm happy with myself, with my health and weight, so what I need now is for the rides to come and hit a bit of form."
- NZ Racing Desk