Punters were shocked and co-trainer Donna Logan was ecstatic when $46 shot European stayer St Jean won yesterday's $200,000 Laser Plumbing Te Puke City Of Auckland Cup at Ellerslie.
St Jean has had only two starts from the Logan/Gibbs stable at Ruakaka since arriving from Australia for a sixth at Ellerslie and a ninth and second-last at Te Rapa.
"I know that doesn't look impressive, but I've been very happy with him and I've been telling everyone that this is my Auckland Cup [in March] horse," said Logan.
"He needed his first run and he reacted badly to the bit that was used on him at Te Rapa. We went back to a tongue tie today and he's shown what he's capable of."
Logan wasn't kidding about her confidence in St Jean - when told jokingly that the result was such a shock the race would be re-run after the last race she said: "Bring it on, I can't wait".
St Jean is a 7-year-old stallion by New Zealand time, having been born in Ireland in 2010. He raced briefly in Ireland, winning one race before being sent to Australia in 2014. He won at Warrnambool, Caulfield and Moonee Valley before going amiss as he was being prepared for the 2014 Caulfield Cup.
He had not raced for exactly two years when he started in New Zealand on Melbourne Cup Day.
"I love this horse," enthused Logan, who also produced runner-up Candle In The Wind as a similar shock result.
It was a big effort to win by St Jean. He drew close enough to the outside gate and made a big run around the field from the 800m.
"I followed instructions," said rider Johnathan Parkes. "They told me not to bustle him early, so we settled back and I took off at the 800m and made a run around them, rather than wait to take off when the others were sprinting."
In a desperate finish less than one length covered St Jean, Candle In The Win, Five To Midnight and Megablast.
"I know this race is all about St Jean," said Donna Logan, "but spare a thought for Candle In The Wind. She's as honest as you could ever hope for and always puts in."
The favourites Lizzie L'Amour (14th) and Fanatic (8th) raced well below expectations. Fanatic was close enough to the fight on the home bend, but only held her ground to the finish. Lizzie L'Amour worked a bit early to get forward from a wide gate, but settled in the perfect position. She was under pressure to hold that spot before the home bend and faded out.
Co-trainer Andrew Forsman shrugged his shoulders. "Matt Cameron said she didn't quite feel comfortable. My gut feeling is she found the track a bit too firm to suit her."
Perfect Start was late scratched behind the starting stalls.
Earlier on the card, trainer Richard Collett attributed Swissta's $100,000 Jamieson Park Great Northern Guineas win to "the ability to do everything right".
That couldn't be said for other major Guineas players. Romancer finished seventh as the $2.20 favourite and second favourite Creative Genius finished sixth.
Swissta got home narrowly in a tight three-way finish with Tiptronic and Jon Snow, confirming Richard Collett's opinion of the 3-year-old, which was formed while he was still a maiden.
"He's got this real ability to race handy and relax. That's important in these types of races. He's very professional and that's typical of the Swiss Ace horses."
In three consecutive starts, Swissta has gone, maiden, R65, group 2 and stretched from 1200m to 1500m and yesterday to 1600m. He has a bright future.
Vinny Colgan could offer no explanation for the average performance of the favourite Romancer, who settled three back on the rails from a favourable barrier and could make no progress up the home straight.
"He had a nice run, but couldn't sprint when I asked him." Stewards ordered a veterinary inspection of Romancer, which revealed nothing.
Creative Genius has to be rated as unlucky.
He moved to the centre of the track early in the home straight, but the saddle slipped back as Bosson began riding him out.
"I was in real trouble and there was no way I could ride him out."
Little to cheer about
• It was back to the bar after St Jean won the City of Auckland Cup at $46.
• To rub salt further into the wound stablemate Candle In The Wind ran second, also at huge odds.
• Swissta showed good racing manners in winning the Great Northern Guineas.