Lightly raced three-year-old Surely Sacred showed he will be awfully hard to beat in the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) in a fortnight when he scored handsomely in the Gr.2 Schweppes Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie.
Spruiked as a Derby prospect after winning the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) on New Year’s Day, when having just his third career start, the Rock ‘n’ Pop gelding followed that up with a tidy effort for fifth in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) late last month.
That effort saw him installed as second favourite for Saturday’s traditional Derby lead-up, where he didn’t let his backers down with a powerful staying effort to secure a narrow but impressive victory.
Settled in mid-field by rider Vinnie Colgan, Surely Sacred lobbed along nicely as pacemaker The Chosen One set a steady speed out in front. The attacks came at the 800m mark with In A Twinkling making a lightning move to dispute the pace as the tempo quickened.
Not to be caught napping, Colgan sent Surely Sacred on a searching wide run where he hit the front shortly after straightening before fending off the challenge of In A Twinkling by a head at the line, with Vernanme running on strongly for third.
“It was a good, tough win as they put the pressure on pretty early,” trainer Tony Pike said.
“Vinnie set him alight pretty early and he has hit the front early enough.
“He (Colgan) probably left a little bit of juice in the tank knowing he had already qualified for the Derby and he will improve off that again.
“Just the way he travelled up to them today was nice to see, he wasn’t in any trouble and I can’t wait for two weeks’ time.”
Pike was pleased with the effort by Colgan, who showed plenty of initiative to set out after the leaders at just the right time.
“Vinnie has elected to get on his bike and put him into the race which was probably the winning of it,” he said.
“He possibly got there too soon, but he will improve and it would be nice to get a second Derby win.”
Pike collected his first New Zealand Derby title in 2016 with Rangipo and believes Surely Sacred compares favourably in comparison.
“This horse is probably more of a genuine stayer although he’s still learning whereas Rangipo was the ultimate professional,” Pike said.
“The Derby was his (Rangipo’s) tenth run that season so he was just a real warrior, while this horse has a touch of class on his side.
“He (Surely Sacred) wandered around a little bit when out there on his own today, he did that when he got beaten here in the Great Northern Guineas, where he switched off.
“He nearly did that again today, but they had their chance to run him down and they couldn’t”.
Surely Sacred is a son of five-race winner Not Sure and was purchased by owners Raffles Racing from Waikato Stud’s Premier draft at the 2017 National Yearling Sale.
The victory by Surely Sacred provoked some quick changes to the TAB Fixed Odds market for the New Zealand Derby with Surely Sacred now a clear $3 favourite ahead of Vernanme ($8) for the blue riband event to be held at Ellerslie on March 2. – NZ Racing Desk
He's got a touch of class!— TAB Racing (@TAB_Racing) February 16, 2019
Surely Sacred ($3.80) and Vinnie Colgan sustain a long run home and fend off the late challenge from outsider In A Twinkling to take out the Group 2 Schweppes Avondale Guineas for @PikeRacing
Now a clear favourite for the Vodafone NZ Derby pic.twitter.com/p5G4qwj2q1