Punters let go a collective "ouch" when Khemosabi got over the line at $28 in the big race at New Plymouth on Saturday and if you had been somewhere close to Matt Cameron you might have heard the same.

Cameron, locked in a tooth-and-nail premiership fight with Lisa Allpress, had ridden Khemosabi in 14 of his 20 New Zealand race starts and barrier trials.

But the under-rated grey was the first emergency for the $65,000 Waikato Stud Opunaki Cup and for safety Cameron climbed aboard well-fancied Rememba Howe.

Khemosabi gained re-entry to the field only late on Friday night, more than 24 hours after the declaration of riders. To be fair, had he and Rememba Howe both been in the original field, Rememba Howe, to almost everyone, looked the better prospect.


Rememba Howe looked to be struggling in the heavy conditions as far out as 700m and finished a well-beaten eighth, 11.4 lengths back.

Cambridge owner and trainer Paul Gordon, originally from Taranaki, declared it the biggest thrill of his life.

That was added to slightly after he called a mate one hour before the race.

"This person needs to remain anonymous, but he's a prominent racing person. He told me Khemosabi had no chance. He said the track was way too testing and he couldn't possibly be fit enough with not having raced for five weeks.

"When he won by 5 lengths I called him back and said 'Imagine if I'd had him fit - he'd have won by 10 lengths'."

Gordon said he wasn't sure how to assess the horse's chances. "Matt [Cameron] said after finishing second on him at Ellerslie that he hadn't properly managed the sticky track and the footing this time had me a little confused.

"I gave him a pretty good chance though because his work on the heavy ground at Cambridge had been very good."

Khemosabi as a race name was pretty much formulated 40 years ago.


"My favourite television show as far back as I can remember was the Lone Ranger and his Indian off-sider Tonto called him Khemosabi. I thought that was a great name and declared that if I ever had a racehorse that was going to be his name."

Khemosabi looked good from day one in Paul Duncan's Cambridge stable and won at his second start. He was to be sold to Gai Waterhouse's Sydney stable, but her veterinary team was not entirely happy with a couple of x-ray issues.

Gordon admits he has had a few "minor" issues with the horse's legs.

"But nothing serious. He jarred up on a very firm track when we sent him to be trained in Sydney by Joe Pride and we brought him home. He's good on anything from dead to heavy and we've found that green mussel extract has worked very well with his legs."

Meanwhile, at Ruakaka the value of an apprentice allowance was illustrated when Shohei Shirahama took 2kg off Jungle Juice's back in the Rating 85 and beat course specialist Kidnapped in the hands of Craig Grylls by the narrowest of margins.