A bold hit-out at Thursday’s Waipa trials put a smile on trainer Andrew Campbell’s face after promising galloper Athletica made his long-awaited return to the racetrack.
The good-looking Tavistock colt was one of a number of Campbell’s runners that were knocked around with a virus that went through the stable earlier in the year. At the time Campbell had the colt aimed at the Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) however a lacklustre effort at Te Rapa in February saw him sent straight to the spelling paddock.
“I’ve always had a lot of time for this horse and he didn’t disappoint when he won first up at Awapuni in the spring,” he said.
“We tossed him in the deep end at his next start in the Hawkes’ Bay Guineas and he went a pretty good race without much luck.
“The same applied in his next run at Te Rapa after which we gave him a brief break to get him ready for a Derby tilt.
“He ran in the three-year-old race on Karaka Million night and was fair but when he couldn’t win a race we thought he would romp home in at Te Rapa I knew something was wrong so we put him in the paddock again.”
That enforced break appears to have worked the trick for Athletica who was all class in downing noted winter performer, Mr Luigi, in an open-class heat over 1150m at Waipa.
“He absolutely hated the track but he needed a good hit-out so we could see if he had recovered well enough from the virus,” said Campbell.
“He was one of the worst affected and has taken the longest to recover so it was a good feeling to see him back out on the track.
“That will bring him along nicely but he will need another trial before we consider a raceday run. He has shown he just doesn’t like the really wet stuff so when we do line him up it will probably be somewhere like Te Rapa or Ruakaka where the tracks are better.
“We don’t have any concrete plans for him but hopefully he can furnish into a nice stayer with some of those good summer races on the cards.”
Campbell also advised that a tilt at the Gr. 3 Winter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton had been shelved for last start Tauranga winner Padraig.
“He won pretty much on heart and ability at Tauranga as he didn’t cop the track that wet,” he said.
“We decided to bypass Riccarton so he can have a few weeks in the paddock as well before we bring him back for the spring.” – NZ Racing Desk