Rising nine-year-old Little Alfie Brown has earned himself a crack at the country's best winter handicappers after he posted an upset victory in yesterday's Te Awamutu Cup.
The outsider of the field in the Freight Lines-sponsored feature, he dropped back in trip to thump a handy field at odds of $38 and put the Listed Taumarunui Gold Cup at Te Rapa on July 27 on his programme.
"We'd have to have a go now," his Cambridge owner-trainer Peter Blick said. "He's an eight-year-old going on three - he's never been better and I don't know what it is."
Little Alfie Brown, who had beaten subsequent Listed Ipswich Cup runner-up High Kin two runs back, had turned in a below-par performance when last presented at Ellerslie.
"I thought if he could weigh in it would be great and it had been five weeks since he last raced," Blick said. "He's only had two runs and usually goes well fresh.
"Last year, I dropped him back to a mile in the Westbury Classic and he was only four lengths off them."
Little Alfie Brown settled back in the pack on Saturday before improving wide and he came with a sustained finish for a clear victory.
"I kept him out in the better stuff and when I asked him he kept kicking," rider Rogan Norvall said. "I can't believe the way he quickened up like he did."
Little Alfie Brown was out on his own by two-and-a-half lengths at the post from Atom Cat, who made solid ground, and group three Winter Cup nomination Old Drumble fought stoutly off a handy run for third.
Abeautifulred had looked like she had stolen the race when she sprinted clear at the top of the straight, but she died on her effort in the closing 100 metres to finish fourth.
Meanwhile, Ginja Ninja showed she is right at the top of her game and showed at Te Awamutu yesterday that she was capable of lifting to another level in the coming weeks.
The Thorn Park mare followed up her Tauranga success with another dominant performance to claim the Cal Isuzu Open Handicap and confirm plans for a trip south.
Trainer Ben Foote has now set his sights on the Listed Waikato Stud Opunake Cup at the Pukekura Raceway on July 20 with the possibility of travelling further afield in August.
Should the four-year-old perform up to expectations in the New Plymouth feature, a late nomination might be forthcoming for the group three Estaronline Winter Cup at Riccarton during Grand National week.
Ginja Ninja was suited by the good tempo yesterday and finished off too well in the straight for pacemaker Danrose and two-win horse Conrwin, who did well out of his class to take third money ahead of I Am Sam, who did his best work late.
"She was really in the mood and I expected just as much," said Foote, who has recently relocated his training operation from Byerley Park to Cambridge. "I'm comfortable there with lots of friends and family."
Ginja Ninja was ridden by regular partner Sam Spratt and she said the mare revelled in the heavy conditions. "She flies through the ground and has got a good turn of foot in the mud."
Spratt had also combined with the promising stablemate Cornelius to trounce the sprinters in the PIC Insurance Brokers/NZI Insurance 1400 in the previous event.
The Spartacus three-year-old continued his good run of form having won his maiden at Ellerslie two starts previously before finishing runner-up at Tauranga.
- NZ Racing Desk