One of the most stunning performances in this early part of the season hailed from a newcomer, Mr Dujardin (NZ) (High Chaparral), at his last-to-first win in a race which was supposedly not made to suit.
Even trainer Lee Freedman had thought the bred-to-stay son of High Chaparral would need the run in the Open Maiden race over the mile.
As thought, the $89 shot was never in the heart of the action from the get-go. When the rest of the field went gunning for the win in the home straight, he was still last and looking very dour despite jockey Matthew Kellady’s vigorous riding.
Freedman and punters alike were instead watching the more-fancied stablemate Foresto hit the front at the 300m, with the word winner screaming all over.
Nobody was paying attention to Mr Dujardin, who though out of the camera, was about to play a cheeky trick on his rivals, including his stable companion. The New Zealand-bred three-year-old suddenly sprouted wings inside the last furlong, coming from last to swallow up his rivals en route to a soft win.
After he admitted to being totally unimpressed by Mr Dujardin’s ordinary pre-debut workouts and barrier trials, Kellady was the first to be surprised by the unexpected late winning burst from a gelding he described as “sluggish”.
The Malaysian rider has again been booked to ride Mr Dujardin in the $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 2000m this Sunday, but still remained unsure what’s in store from the Oscar Racing Stable-owned galloper second-up.
Kellady has sat on him at least once since the spectacular win, but if he was looking for an improvement from the lackadaisical demeanour, he found none.
“He was the same at his last gallop. He’s lazy and wouldn’t go when you ask him,” he said laughing.
“It was meant to be a serious gallop, but I had to scrub his ears off to get him going. He did the same thing at his previous hit-outs and trials.
“But on raceday, he was a different horse. Lee told me to try and settle him outside his stablemate (Foresto) so we can control the pace upfront.
“But when he could not muster any speed, I was what the heck, I will just ride him where he is happy and hopefully, he can run on, but he was really not going a yard.
“He was still last at the home turn and to be honest, I didn’t think he could win from there. But suddenly, he started to pick up speed, and at the 300m, I thought he had a chance for a place – and then, what a flying finish!”
Kellady admitted that a few questions abound about Mr Dujardin’s quick step-up from 1600m first-up to 2000m second-up, but if he can bring the same scorching turn of speed on Sunday, he should be hard to beat.
“You have to give Lee Freedman credit for that win. He also thought the horse would need the run but he’s managed to make a horse win over the mile first-up, and now he’s stepping up to 2000m second-up,” he said.
“Only master trainers can pull this off. It remains to be seen if he can do it again against better horses on Sunday.
“Especially as the second-up syndrome after rest is always something we should worry about.
“If he can bring back the same form he showed on debut, he will be hard to beat, but going on his trackwork, I don’t know what to expect. I hope he is the sort of horse who conserves his energy for the races!” -STC