Question marks over Sweet Leader's well-being following surgery and a rain-affected track were answered in emphatic fashion by the colt at Te Rapa.
In his first appearance since his spring campaign was cut short, the son of O'Reilly thundered home from the tail of the field to down a competitive line-up of three-year-olds in the group three Cambridge Breeders' Stakes yesterday.
"It's great for all the team at home," said Lance O'Sullivan, who trains Sweet Leader with Andrew Scott. "He's a pretty smart horse and we were looking at the 2000 Guineas for him, but he had to have a wind operation so this is a great thrill.
"The operation went well, but you never really know with these things until they are put under the pressure of a race."
Sweet Leader further complicated his comeback by missing the kick under Craig Grylls and then they were in tight quarters at the back 700 metres from home.
"Things didn't look great at that particular point, but we said to Craig to be patient and it was a great ride," O'Sullivan said.
Sweet Leader and Grylls were able to take advantage of the gaps when the field broke up and the horse finished far too well for Honey Rider and Flamingo.
"It all opened up in front of me and after he changed leg 200 metres out he really let down," Grylls said. "He's got a bit of class about him."
Sweet Leader has now won three of his five starts, but plans for him to further that record have yet to be confirmed.
"Andrew and I set the horse for this race so we're not sure where to from here," O'Sullivan said. "We'll talk to the owners in Hong Kong, there's Brisbane but I'm not sure just yet."
- NZ Racing Desk