Consistent customer Kolonel Kev returned to winning form at Trentham on Saturday when he upset the favoured runners in a small but select field in the Merial Ancare Premier 1600.
The 5-year-old gelding was scoring his fifth career victory off the back of two handy placings after a disappointing campaign at Riccarton during New Zealand Cup Week back in November.
Trainer Lisa Latta was looking for answers after those out-of-character performances and found them with a gear change for his most recent appearances.
"When we took him to Riccarton he went pretty bad down there," she noted.
"He was sort of making a bit of a gargling noise when pulling up so we put the tongue tie on him for the past two and it has really improved him.
"We also knew we had to ride him a bit quieter and get him off the bridle. He didn't draw well so I just said go back and ride for a bit of luck. "
Rider Jonathan Riddell, who was scoring the first leg of a winning double for the day, followed those instructions to the letter as he sat back last in the six-strong field for most of the journey. Showing an abundance of patience, Riddell waited for a gap to appear one off the fence in the run home before driving his mount through to contest the finish.
Kolonel Kev showed plenty of fight as he held out the challenges of race favourite Beefeater and northern visitor Irish Call to score by a head at the line.
Riddell was a satisfied man after the race. "He's been a little disappointing but he does have plenty of ability," he said.
"You've just got to switch him off and look for that late run as he puts in that way.
"They went a bit of a canter but that's what you get in small fields."
The victory took Kolonel Kev's career prizemoney past the $150,000 mark for owner Kevin Pratt, who races the gelding under his Kamada Racing banner. A full brother to the gelding will be offered as Lot 827 from the Pencarrow Stud draft during the Select session of the upcoming National Yearling Sale Series at Karaka.
The Gary Vile-trained Rock On confirmed his reputation as a stayer on the rise as he produced a devastating late burst to score a convincing victory.
Beautifully handled by rider Riddell, Rock On was tardily away in the BJW Motors sponsored 2300m event but soon recovered to sit just beyond midfield in the early stages of the contest. A muddling speed saw a number of contenders take their chance in front with the numerous lead changes conspiring to shuffle Rock On to the rear of the field.
Angled to the outer on the point of the home turn the Road To Rock gelding wound up strongly as Riddell timed their final charge to perfection to score handsomely by a widening half length margin at the post.
Vile admitted he had his doubts about the win when his charge was shuffled back at a vital stage.
"I have to be honest I was a bit nervous around the 600 metre mark as he hadn't moved on him," he said.
"But he must have known he was going all right!"
The 4-year-old gelding has been a work in progress for Vile for quite some time with the Awapuni based mentor taking a cautious approach with him as he works through the grades.
"I've pulled him out of the Wellington Cup as while I think physically he is okay, to mentally go two miles at the moment would just be a little too much," he said.
"He's only a 4-year-old but if everything goes right he'll be back here for the Summer Cup and then we'll see from there.
"Two months is a long time in a horse's life so we could be looking at the Auckland Cup in March."
- NZ Racing Desk