Kicking off a new campaign at Caulfield on Saturday after four months off the scene, highly promising New Zealand-bred gelding St Lawrence wasted no time in making his mark.
The four-year-old dug deep to prevail in a three-way photo finish to the A$130,000 City Index Handicap (1400m). It was the fifth win of a six-start career for the Redwood gelding, who is trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace and races in the colours of prominent owner Ozzie Kheir.
St Lawrence won his first four races in succession between April and December last year, then finished a close third at Sandown in February in his only other appearance.
His resuming run on Saturday got off to a less-than-ideal start, being caught wide with no cover after jumping from gate 11 in a 12-horse field. But jockey Ben Allen never panicked and allowed the big gelding to roll forward as the field made their way down the side of the track.
St Lawrence swooped to the front at the top of the straight, then fought back bravely when Tonneofgrit challenged and headed him at the 100-metre mark. St Lawrence clawed his way back level with that rival and lunged at the line to edge him out by a nose, with the same margin back to fast-finishing third placegetter Barbie’s Fox.
“The way he let down at the top of the straight, I thought nothing would be able to come to me, so I was a bit surprised when the other horses came up next to me,” Allen admitted.
“They caught me by surprise a little bit, but I hadn’t fully tested and gone for my horse at that stage. He lengthened well again and was very tough through the line.”
St Lawrence was bred by Gerry Harvey and is by the in-form Westbury Stud stallion Redwood. St Lawrence is one of five winners from seven foals to race out of the unraced Encosta De Lago mare Bacio Del Vinto, who is also the dam of Group Three winner Marroni.
St Lawrence began his career in New Zealand, where he was trained by Andrew Forsman. He won two trials on the Cambridge synthetic track, then overcame a wide run to score an impressive debut win at Hastings on April 16 last year.
He was later bought privately in a deal brokered by Maher’s bloodstock manager Will Bourne. He has since added another five wins from his six starts in Australia, banking more than A$200,000.
“Full credit to the horse today,” assistant trainer Jack Turnbull said. “He dug in deep and went again late when that other horse challenged him.
“He’s a big lad and wants a lot of space, so being out wide wasn’t necessarily a disadvantage for him. Having said that, he did a bit of work into the wind, and he was first-up too.
“The Ballarat stable has done a great job with him, they had him cherry-ripe for this, and he’s performed accordingly.
“He can just tiptoe through winter for now – there’s another race in the same class and trip in a month’s time. If he continues to respond and progress, then obviously we’ve got the spring to think about after that.” – NZ Racing Desk