Racing: Pluck of Irish as apprentice hoop hits 'go' button

By Mike Dillon

Brendan Hutton gets Watch This Space home. Photo / Trish Dunell
Brendan Hutton gets Watch This Space home. Photo / Trish Dunell

Just past the 500m in Saturday's $100,000 Windsor Park Japan/New Zealand Trophy, Cambridge apprentice Brendan Hutton had to make a lightning decision at Tauranga.

He could only guess at the time it was the right move, but it won him the race on Watch This Space.

Hutton went for gold from outside the leader approaching the home turn because he knew the big weight advantage over the favourite - 7.5kg - had to be made use of.

"I would have liked to press the button on him a few strides earlier, but Sam's [Samantha Collett] horse Iwannadancelikehim alongside was going well. Then he started to struggle, so I took off.

"I couldn't see how Julinsky Prince was travelling because he was behind us, but I knew I had to put a break on him."

That break won the group two feature.

Julinsky Prince, who won the race a year earlier, tried hard under his big weight, but was three lengths away in second on the line.

Hutton, 24, moved from Ireland to New Zealand in January 2012. The native of Carlow, near Kilkenny and Kildare, had featured in the equestrian field, but race riding was his passion.

He made an immediate impact as a gifted rider and kicked home 38 winners last season. He had full momentum up when he was injured in a multi-horse fall at the Ellerslie barrier trials in the first week of November and on his first day back from those injuries his mount broke a leg on the home bend at Ellerslie. The horse went through the running rail and Hutton fractured an elbow.

He has ridden 17 winners this season despite three months on the sideline.

His boss, Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie, was delighted with the win.

"It's great to get your first stakes winner home. The wonderful thing about Brendan is he is strong despite walking at 48kg and he can ride 51kg-52kg in a big saddle. That's a huge advantage for an apprentice."

This was a good training performance by Wayne Hillis and his partner Sean Kesner.

Watch This Space led and won under Reese Jones at Te Rapa only seven days earlier and it was a credit to the stable to win such a race as Saturday's on a seven-day back-up.

"I wasn't sure he'd handle the [heavy 10] track," said Wayne Hillis.

"He'd had one start on a rain-affected track and flopped. As far as the back-up goes, he actually won quite easily last week so I suppose that helped."

Hillis said the obvious target would be the Easter Stakes.

Seventh Up came fourth at Ellerslie in his seventh-up start this month but on Saturday at Tauranga he came from last to first in an eighth-up bobby-dazzler victory.

It won't be his last.

Seventh Up turned in one of the most startling wins of the season when he sprinted home at electric speed from last on the home bend to win at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

The final 600m of that 1400m was run off the front in 33.9 seconds. In coming from last, Seventh Up had to have bettered that by at least one second. There was going to be no chance of running those sectionals on a heavy 10 surface on Saturday and Seventh Up showed remarkable versatility to handle the conditions well and win comfortably.

The step to open company should not be a worry for him.

Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh was quick to admit that relief was his first emotion before delight set in after watching enigmatic three-year-old filly Nahema destroy her rivals over 1200 metres at Tauranga.

Marsh has endured a frustrating run with the Per Incanto filly who stamped herself as a potential top performer when she finished an unlucky second in the Matamata Breeders' Stakes just over 12 months ago. Since then Marsh has battled to get the best from his charge with a series of disappointing performances.

"We just haven't been able to work out what has been going on with her during this preparation," he admitted 24 hours after her Tauranga victory.

"She would work the tracks down during the week and then come raceday she just wouldn't put in.

"We changed a few little things around and gave her a quiet trial during the week to see if that would get her focused which seems to have worked."

- Additional reporting: NZ Racing Desk

- NZ Herald

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