Outsider Santa Monica belied her $77 winning-odds to take out the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
In a gutsy performance, the Per Incanto five-year-old was able to nab Princess Kereru on the line to win by a neck, with a further head back to the luckless race favourite Melody Belle, who was posted out three-wide throughout the 1200m feature.
The five-year-old has been in solid form of late for Te Awamtu trainer Stephen Ralph, finishing runner-up in the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) and Listed Hallmark Stud Handicap (1200m) last-start, and Ralph said he expected another good showing from his mare.
“She has been knocking on the door and we knew we could win this,” he said. “The only horse we feared was Melody Belle.
“It was great work by Trudy (Thornton, jockey), she has stuck with us the whole way through, she knows the horse and just summed it up perfectly.”
Ralph said he received a confidence boost with his mare after her unplaced performance in the Gr.3 Sweynesse Stakes (1215m) in October, which set her on a path for Group One glory.
“We posted the best last 600m in the sprint down in Rotorua (Sweynesse Stakes) against some of the best sprinters around at the time, so we knew we had the horse,” he said.
Ralph reflected on the long journey it has taken to attain his first win at elite-level and he was quick to mention the loyalty of his owners Stuart and Cherie Hope.
“It’s our first Group One winner,” he said.
“We formed a partnership all the way through. It’s about 13 years in the making with Stuart and Cherie with this horse, so big ups to them.”
Winning jockey Trudy Thornton was just as jubilant for Santa Monica’s connections and said her mount appreciated the firmer ground on Tuesday.
“She is such a tough little competitor,” she said.
“It all panned out alright, the speed was on which suited her. She got into air when she needed to and tried her heart out, as she does.
“Last-start she went a really good race, but the track was a bit off and she likes it really firm and she got that today. She is just so much happier on good ground.”
Ralph capped off a great day by taking out the last race on the card at Ellerslie, the Barfoot & Thompson 1600, with Marissa. – NZ Racing Desk