Locally trained filly Emily Margaret showed all her fighting qualities as she withstood a fierce challenge from northern visitor Wekaforce to claim the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton.
The Pins filly had entered the race as the South Island’s leading hope after dealing to a handy field over 1000m on her home turf a fortnight ago. Most pundits expected her to put in a good showing although pre-race discussions centred mainly around the Tony Pike trained Cambridge raider Wekaforce, who was sent out a warm favourite.
Those predictions appeared to be well founded with Wekaforce showing a torrent of speed to cross to the lead from the outside barrier in the early stages of the contest. The key to the race however, was the good beginning made by Emily Margaret from an inside draw with rider Jasmine Fawcett happy to post the favourite one off the rail as she held her place against the fence on her mount.
The pair went head to head for the entire 1200m journey with Emily Margaret finding a little more in the concluding stages to draw clear by half-a-length as Wekaforce’s early exertions told on her in the final 100m.
“It was a good tough win wasn’t it,” said co-trainer Kevin Hughes.
“It was a great ride by Jasmine as I said to her we had to use the barrier in a big field like that. With that many in the field there can be carnage when you get in amongst them so we were much better in front and out of trouble.
“I thought that Wekaforce was the one to beat and they really set down to a ding-dong battle in the home straight.
“I know how tough my filly is so I was hoping she would see it out as she loves a scrap.”
Hughes, who prepares the filly with his wife Pam for owner Rodger Finlay, was also relieved the victory would allow him to settle on a path to the Gr.1 gavelhouse.com 1000 Guineas (1600m) under his own terms.
“I think that should just about seal a place in the 1000 Guineas for her so we can take our time and pick a path for her,” he said.
“She doesn’t mind the ground the way it was today but she also handles it with some cut in the track so if we could strike that sort of ground at her next start it would be in her best interests.
“There is a 1400m race for the three-year-olds at Ashburton coming up but I’m more inclined to tackle a grade race instead where she should get in pretty well.
“We’ll just see how she comes through this one and then look at what is available but she will definitely step up to 1400m to get her ready to run the mile in the Guineas.”
The Gr.1 gavelhouse.com 46th New Zealand 1000 Guineas will be run at Riccarton on November 17. – NZ Racing Desk