Though still very raw and unpolished, Stay The Course showed he was certainly not without an engine when he came thundering home for his first win in the $75,000 Manulife Cup, a Restricted Maiden race over 1400m on Friday night.
Prepared by trainer Shane Baertschiger, the Epaulette three-year-old has been giving his handlers a torrid time at the barriers, but did give a peek of what he could do if in the right frame of mind at his first two runs, especially the last one in a Restricted Maiden race over 1400m on January 20 when he stormed home for second place for Vlad Duric.
Ridden this time by Baertschiger’s stable jockey John Powell, Stay The Course, however, looked like he was left with too much to do when ahead of only two runners at the 600m.
Baertschiger said he had been tinkering with Stay The Course’s work, but thought he might have erred in his formula when he saw the Tivic Stable-owned gelding not making much headway while the horses in front had already packed up for the final dash to the line.
“I don’t usually gallop him a lot, but his weight has been going up and I decided to gallop him a bit more,” said the Australian handler.
“But when I saw JP give him one around the tail at the 600m, and he was not really improving, I thought I’d done the wrong thing!
“He’s been a real handful at the barriers. We had to get hold of his ears there just to load him in.
“He’s still a big baby. He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet.
“He’s out of a Zabeel mare (Z’Honor), he’ll get 2000m. Next prep, he could be my Derby horse.
“He probably needs one or two more runs. He’ll become a bigger and better horse next year.”
Powell, who was at only his second 2019 win after Mikki Joy scored on February 8 having been sidelined through suspension, was glad he was starting to pick up on the pace.
“Things have been slow this year, but it’s good to ride a second winner tonight,” said the veteran Australian jockey.
“This horse is a big bugger and is very green, but I was confident he would run well tonight.
“He’s very loose underneath and he can shift ground, but he quickened beautifully in the end.” -STC