Send us your private email address and we'll tell you what trainer Andrew Campbell said when Sam Spratt got out to a long lead mid-race on eventual winner Gobstopper in Saturday's 3200m $250,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup.

Unfortunately it can't be published here, but it starts with "What the ...

Sam Spratt has received universal praise for what is one of history's most inspirational NZ Cup winning rides, but that's not what Campbell and part owner Tommy Heptinstall were thinking in the Riccarton grandstand 1800m from the finish.

Both now accept it as a stroke of near genius. "That wasn't the instructions," the astute Campbell told the Herald yesterday. "Instructions were to put the pressure on from the 1000m."


Spratt has soft hands and is one of the finest front-running jockeys of modern times. Simply put, horses run for her - and often keep running.

She had not ridden Gobstopper in a race, only in a Cambridge trial.

"I watched his videos and noticed that he didn't really like restraint. The harder you pull on him the more he pulls against you." It takes a lot of nerve and confidence to trust your instincts in a race worth a quarter of a million dollars.

"It's hard to lead and win any race, let along a New Zealand Cup on a track like Riccarton," says Campbell. Troy Harris, on the favourite Pentathlon, cleverly figured Gobstopper was travelling exceptionally well at the 1100m and moved forward from an already favourable position to be outside the eventual winner. It looked a winning move when the pair turned into the home straight locked together. But when Pentathlon started to flag, Gobstopper forged clear to win untested by a wide margin from Pentathlon.

He is a brother to Werther, also successfully trained by Campbell before being offloaded to Hong Kong, from where he has been rated one of the world's top stayers. The pair are completely different. For all his athleticism, Gobstopper is lean and he wasn't always the dour horse you saw on Saturday.

"He was as weak as. He was the type that back in the day you would have turned out on the hills and brought into work as a 4-year-old. But, to be any good, you have to race them at three these days, but boy was he weak. We pushed the envelope last preparation and he started to go awful. When he goes off he wouldn't win a maiden race." Which is why Gobstopper will be spelling in a paddock in Campbell's newly acquired Cambridge property by mid afternoon today with the Auckland Cup at Ellerslie in March as his goal.

17 Nov, 2017 9:05am
Quick Read

Tommy Heptinstall is great for racing. The Wellington real estate operator, who spends three months of every New Zealand winter watching the best of European racing, looks only for staying horses. His record includes Werther, Victoria Derby winner Sangster and now Gobstopper.

More than in any other endeavour, horse racing is a game where reality has to start with a dream and Campbell, the ex-plumber and Heptinstall would have to lie to declare next year's Melbourne Cup has not crossed their mind since Saturday.

The unassuming Campbell has proved himself a masterful horseman. He gave plumbing away, he says, because he was sick of it, went to work for Arthur Williams then Sydney trainer Grahame Begg and strapped on a trainer's badge in the mid 1990s.

"I thought I was going to be this big public trainer, then quickly worked out there was no money in that." His record since linking with Heptinstall is remarkable and even before Saturday he had a stunning winning strike rate this season of 2.4.