Ardrossan has got hearts aflutter.
Adored by his connections, the Redoute's Choice four-year-old stallion will shoot for Group One success in Saturday's BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.
He showed he was worthy of a crack at the weight-for-age feature with a brilliant win in the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night last month, his fourth win in as many starts in New Zealand.
However, the prospect of Ardrossan racing in top level company seemed remote when he returned from a failed stint with Melbourne trainer Mick Price last September, unplaced in three starts and diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.
Speaking to Trackside after the Concorde win, part-owner Waikato Stud's Mark Chittick said: "He came back with a few heart problems. Chris Phillips, our vet, has done a wonderful job with him. It's early days yet but it certainly looks like he's going to get back to his best. Chris left no stone unturned. He went world-wide to find the best treatment he could."
Having consulted with cardiology experts from England and the United States, Phillips began a course of treatment that involved oral therapy and repeat electrocardiography (ECG) and blood tests.
“It was a problem that had no quick-fix like for example a fibrillation. We were told the prognosis was only 50-50 that he would ever race at the top level again based on the ECG reports,” said Phillips, who gave credit to Waikato Stud pre-trainer Sam McLeish for efforts in getting Ardrossan back to full fitness during that period.
Working on the treadmill at Waikato Stud, Ardrossan could be monitored and Phillips found his heart had repaired and his heartbeat was normal again, a diagnosis backed up by clean ECG and blood tests.
Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh was rapt to get Ardrossan back in the stable and in the buildup to the BCD Group Sprint said it was as though there had never been any issue with the horse.
"He's perfect. He's got no issues at all. He's happy as and his work has been brilliant. He's as sound as you could get any horse and an absolute pleasure to do anything with.
"He wanders onto the track each morning, does whatever time you want him to run, then wanders back home, eats, sleeps and waits to do it all again the next morning. Before the Concorde, all those horses were jig-jogging about but he just walked onto the track with his head down, as composed as anything.
"He's a beautiful entire. A stable full of him and you couldn't go wrong."
Marsh accepted that Saturday's BCD Group Sprint was a step up from the Concorde, run under handicap with Ardrossan carrying the 53kg minimum, but expected his charge to measure up.
"It's definitely a step up at weight-for-age against those more seasoned campaigners but we expect him to foot it with them. I wouldn't swap him for any other horse in the race."
Marsh said he and jockey Jason Waddell wouldn't waver from plans to race on speed, though he wasn't sure if Ardrossan would lead with stablemate Ugo Foscolo in the field.
"Ugo's good. He could jump, lead and, with the rail out 5m on Saturday, prove hard to run down. We've seen it at Te Rapa before," Marsh said.
Ardrossan is the TAB's $5 third favourite for the BCD Group Sprint behind Melody Belle at $2.90 and Volpe Veloce at $4, with Ugo Foscolo a $71 rank outsider.
Marsh has eight runners at Te Rapa on Saturday, including Crown Prosecutor in the Gr.2 Warren Storm Lifebrokers Waikato Guineas (2000m) and Kiwianna in the Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m).
He expected last-start Tauranga winner Tightlign to run well in the last race and was looking for a bold run from last-start Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Final winner Starrybeel to confirm an Australian campaign. - NZ Racing Desk