The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman trained Rodrico proved too strong in a thrilling three-way finish to the Woods Contracting Taumarunui Gold Cup (2200m) at Rotorua.
The 2016 Gr.1 Queensland Derby runner-up joined the powerful Cambridge stable after failing to find form in eight starts during a six-month stint in Hong Kong. Baker made no secret of his regard for the ability of the High Chaparral five-year-old after he started his New Zealand career with a win over 1600m at Hawera in May.
Four further starts in his current campaign had yielded three minor placings before he stepped up to the mark in the Rotorua staying feature. Sent out second favourite in the event, Rodrico was settled in mid-field by rider Bridget Grylls before being asked to improve sharply at the 600m mark.
Grylls and Rodrico set out after the pacemaking pair of Jochen Rindt and Trisha Lea and loomed to the front out wide early in the run home. The trio set down to a knock-em-down drag-em-out struggle over the concluding stages which saw Rodrico put his head in front at the line with Trisha Lea second and Jochen Rindt a head away in third.
“This is a race we’ve had in mind for him for a while,” said Forsman after the photo finish had been decided in his favour.
“In his last start at New Plymouth he just struggled on the track and got beaten by a better one on the day.
“To be fair all his runs have been pretty honest. He has always put in and today he has got in the right stride after a great ride.”
Forsman was pleased with the performance of Grylls who has only recently returned to riding in New Zealand after a lengthy period in Australia.
“She’s very professional and we’re lucky to have her riding him,” he said.
“She did the job perfectly.”
Grylls was pleased to pick up the win so soon after making her New Zealand return.
“It’s great to be back,” she said.
“I was a little bit worried there as when he got to the front he pricked his ears, but he kept going.
“We were quite wide without a lot of cover but when we got going around the turn I had a lot of horse underneath me.
“I had to keep urging him, but he finished off nicely.”– NZ Racing Desk