Waverley horse Glory Days made her first visit to Ellerslie a memorable one when she fought tooth and nail to win the Group 2 Coca-Cola Avondale Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.
The Red Giant mare proved a revelation during the spring/early summer where she won four races on end, culminating with the Waverley Cup and then the Listed Wanganui Cup (2040m) in the space of 14 days in November-December.
Put aside for a short break after finishing unplaced in the Group 3 Manawatu Cup (2200m), Glory Days resumed with a fast-finishing effort for second in the Listed Wairarapa Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1600m) before trekking north for her first look at the Ellerslie track in Saturday's feature event.
Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, Glory Days handled her first experience of racing right-handed with aplomb as she produced a sustained finishing run to secure the upper-hand from outsider Blue Breeze, after the pair waged war over the final 300m.
Trainer and Waverley farmer Bill Thurlow was feeling quite emotional as he accepted congratulations immediately after the race.
"This is my biggest moment by far," he said.
"It means a hell of a lot as we only have a little, wee team.
"She's a horse we have always loved and had a lot of time for, but to come and do this is bit of a dream really.
"She's so tough and it was a great effort as going the other way [right-handed] really did worry me.
"In saying that, she handled it so well as she came around the corner good and I'm rapt for her."
Thurlow has made no secret of the fact he has his sights set firmly on next month's Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m), and set out his plan for the mare over the next three weeks leading in to the Ellerslie feature.
"I think she will spend the next three weeks at home," he said.
"We had thought about the Nathans [Nathans Memorial, Ellerslie March 2], but it is highly unlikely on that run.
"She has 53.5kgs in the Auckland Cup, which is quite a luxury weight, so we will just keep her ticking over and come back in three weeks time.
"We don't know how she will handle 3200m, but she doesn't pull, she just lobs along, and when you ask her to go, she just goes."
Glory days is co-owned with Grant Thurlow, brother of Bill, and Brent McAree.
Bookmakers reacted swiftly to the victory with the 6-year-old now equal favourite at $4.50 for the Auckland Cup ,along with Charles Road and Saturday's third-placed finisher, Five To Midnight. – NZ Racing Desk