The Shaun Ritchie trained My Scotsgrey (4 Gr. G. Golan – My Chameleon, by Grosvenor) won the $225,000, Group III, Christchurch Casino 146th New Zealand Cup (3200m) like a good horse in the making, in front of a massive crowd at Riccarton Park Racecourse in Christchurch on Saturday.
While delighted to win the time-honoured event, Ritchie served notice that the best of the genuine grey staying type is still to come.
“He’s a natural staying horse and was set for this race after the Derby as we always thought he would run a strong two miles, but he will be better with age”, said the Cambridge trainer.
After winning the Listed Metropolitan Handicap over 2500 metres at Riccarton last Saturday, Ritchie remarked that one of his qualms was whether the two mile cup journey would be long enough for My Scotsgrey, and while others around him failed to flatter at the end of a mammoth staying test, he stuck to the task as though further metres would not have seen him denied.
Posted three wide in midfield through the early stages, rider Leith Innes managed to work his charge into a position one off the fence at the post with a lap of the 2500 metre track remaining.
Innes moved him into the train three wide at the 1200 metres, to be ninth at the 800, and he commenced the long run home wide on the track from the 600.
He collared the pacemaker, Zabene (Zabeel), a furlong out and worked clear late as he had done in his two recent victories to bag a hat-trick.
Filling the same position in the Metropolitan a week earlier, Zabene finished a length away in second, while Smoking Chimneys (Generous) ensured the same trifecta result by finishing third.
Improving on his eighth from the previous week, Halls (Generous) finished fourth, ahead of Butch James (Volksraad) in fifth.
On good footing, the time for the 3200 metre journey was 3:20.64, with the final 600 metres in 34.20.
As favourite, My Scotsgrey returned $3.70 & $1.80.
Ritchie had explained a week earlier that he visited various beaches on his southward journey from Cambridge before residing while in Christchurch at the Woodend Beach property of harness trainer David Butt.
“All we’ve done this week is take him to the beach for some stamina work and didn’t gallop him at all”, said Ritchie, whose team seemed to thrive on the regime.
While Katie Lee created history by winning both the one thousand and the two thousand guineas to bookend the three day carnival at Riccarton, Ritchie-trained runners Keep The Peace (Keeper) and Military Move (Volksraad) had finished second to her respectively in each race.
Owned by G G Syndicate Ltd, Russell Reid, Shaun Ritchie, Wilf Schoonderwoerd, Richard Stroud, Grant Syminton, Mrs Chris & Moray Todd, My Scotsgrey trekked to Victoria last season, finishing second to The Tiger (Catbird) in the Geelong Classic before going on to produce a notable performance for sixth to Coniston Bluebird (Scenic) in the New Zealand Derby in March.
While part-owner Russell Reid shared in the breeding of My Scotsgrey with his wife, the victory was especially sweet for Schoonderwoerd.
Of Dutch descent, Schoonderwoerd was born in New Zealand, but traces his four or five mornings a week helping out at the Ritchie stable to the influence of his grandfather, who was a stipendiary steward and handicapper in Holland.
“I’ve been helping Shaun for about fifteen years. This is a great industry and all of the people work very hard in it”, while he said of his favourite horse, My Scotsgrey, “I have always had faith in him and he has a wonderful nature.”
Ritchie said the winner of four races and $244,695 will ‘have a little break now’ and return for a build up to the $1m Auckland Cup over 3200 metres at Ellerslie on March 10 next year.