Silver Blaze creates a big impression
A horse bred to go 2,400 metres plus, but with the speed to win over 1,000m on debut. It sounds like the recipe for a thoroughbred champion and, while that kind of accolade may be a long way off, the career of Silver Blaze is at least off and running after his debut assignment.
Silver Blaze, trained by Dennis Yip Chor-hong, was the opening leg of a Brett Prebble three-timer, and none of it came as any surprise to him.
In fact, Prebble took the knowledge of Silver Blaze's stout pedigree as a key ingredient in formulating his winning strategy, knowing that if the three-year-old was in front 400m from home, he wouldn't be found wanting at the business end.
'I know it's very unusual, especially in a place where there are so many horses bred for speed, to find a horse like this that's bred to really stay,' Prebble said. 'And when they are, they would never normally have this horse's speed.
'But what he showed in his barrier trial [winning at 800m] told us he has all the speed you could want in a young horse and the pedigree to go any distance you want as well.'
Silver Blaze, backed down from $100 to $68.50, was sent to the front from the outset down the straight 1,000m course and travelled strongly throughout.
Prebble engaged him fully at the 400m and, although the steely grey shifted ground momentarily under pressure, he picked himself up again and hit the line strongly to easily stave off late closers Bejeweled and Lucky Quality.
Silver Blaze was New Zealand's record-priced yearling, who went on to become the winner of the 2002 AJC Australian Derby at 2,400m.
But Don Eduardo, who now stands at Haunui Farm near Auckland, is only one source of Silver Blaze's potential stamina. His granddam is Kerry Lane, a grey mare whose major victory came in the Group One Auckland Cup at 3,200 metres.
Prebble also teamed up with an old favourite in Natural Echo, an eight-year-old who may be a Class Five cellar-dweller but he's given his owners a power of enjoyment, with this being his sixth victory.
Natural Echo ($114) was taken straight to the front by Prebble and rated to a nicety, going neither too fast nor too slow and ultimately having all rivals under pressure by the time they straightened in the 2,000m contest.
'It's funny how things happen, but the owners asked me in the mounting yard to tell them if I thought the horse was getting a bit old and finding it all a bit too hard,' Prebble recalled.
'I said to them 'don't worry', there are a lot of horses in training with less chance of winning races than him. He's good for another win or two yet - but I didn't necessarily think today would be one of them.'
Natural Echo is prepared by Manfred Man Ka-leung, and Prebble has formed a mutually profitable association with the stable lately.
This season, Man has prepared 19 winners and Prebble has been the jockey for nine of them, from just 43 rides at a strike rate of 21 per cent.
Prebble completed his treble with the effortless victory by Bullish Cash in the main event, the Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m).