Exciting 3-year-old Pareanui Bay made it three wins from three starts when he won the Listed Eagle Memorial 3YO (1500m) at Te Aroha yesterday.
The Tony Pike-trained Lonhro gelding hadn't been seen since recording a stunning win in the Group 2 Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa last month and was sent out a dominant $1.90 favourite on the strength of that performance and a strong midweek trial.
Rider Michael McNab had the longstriding individual away well from the starting gates and he strode forward to sit outside pacemaker La Crique, who most felt would be the biggest threat to him after her win at Tauranga a fortnight ago.
McNab had Pareanui Bay travelling sweetly on the home bend and he sent him to the lead early in the run home, where he looked set to record a comfortable victory.
That wasn't the case, as Pareanui Bay was inclined to loaf over the concluding stages, looking to go to the line with plenty in hand but only recording a short neck victory over runner-up Flash Mary, with La Crique the same margin away in third.
Pike was delighted with the win and noted a key ingredient was the ability to give the horse a 950m trial on the Cambridge synthetic track on Tuesday to sharpen him up for his race return.
"He hadn't raced since late October as we couldn't get him to the 2000 Guineas [Group 1,1600m] at Riccarton due to the debacle around the late nominations for the race, so he needed something to fit him for [yesterday]," Pike said.
"That trial was perfect and brought him on nicely for the race. He did the job we expected [yesterday], although each day gets a little bit harder, as he is now expected to win.
"He is still green, with plenty of learning to do. He is the type of horse that won't generally win races by big margins, but he is also the sort that always seems to have something in reserve when you really need it.
"I will have a good chat to Brent and Cherry Taylor, who own him, and see what they think before we make any future plans," said Pike.
"There are two nice 3-year-old races at Ellerslie over the Christmas Carnival which I have looked at and then we can firm up where we go after that."
A cool ride from Leith Innes paved the way for talented galloper Demonetization to make it back-to-back victories to open his latest campaign as the pair won the Group 3 Eagle Stakes (1600m).
Innes has done it tough over the extended Covid lockdown in the Auckland area which precluded him making any raceday appearances until the special meeting held at Pukekohe on November 11, where he piloted Demonetization to a comfortable victory in an open 1400m.
Having relocated to Cambridge in the last week, Innes was free to take the mount on the Nigel Tiley-trained 7-year-old at Te Aroha and took his record to four wins and three placings from just 10 rides on the son of All Too Hard.
Tiley watched the race from a home in Pukekohe due to the ongoing travel restrictions.
"He is in the zone and has really turned the corner since his win at Pukekohe," he said.
— NZ Racing Desk