Venerable stayer Sampson took advantage of the new conditions of the Listed Yealands Family Wines NZ St Leger (2600m) at Trentham on Saturday to run out an emphatic eight-length winner.
Traditionally a platform for younger stayers, the race was changed from a three and four-year-old event to an open-age feature this year and nine-year-old galloper Sampson showed the benefit of experience by giving his younger rivals a galloping lesson.
The Howie Mathews-trained galloper had warmed up for the event when fourth of four runners behind Hunta Pence over an unsuitable 1600m last week. On Saturday he carried just 2.5kgs above the minimum, care of the set weights and penalties conditions.
Ridden by Johnathan Parkes, the central districts hoop made a mid-race move when the tempo slackened to take Sampson to the front and horse and rider were cruising rounding the home turn, with Parkes taking several looks over his shoulder in search of an opponent.
“Obviously he’s just out-stayed them all,” Parkes said.
“I wasn’t really happy with pace down the back and I was able to let him roll forward and from there he has pretty much just dominated the race.
“It’s just such a shame that he missed out on the Wellington Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) this year, but who knows, he might be back here next year for it.”
A stone bruise forced the late scratching of Sampson from January’s Wellington Cup with the Dubai Destination gelding in good form prior to the Cup, having landed the Listed Marton Cup (2200m) in impressive fashion.
While the second-half of the race couldn’t have worked out better for the nine-year-old, who takes the mantle as the oldest St Leger winner in the world, the early stages weren’t straight forward for the $2.90 favourite.
“He didn’t begin as well as I thought he would, but I wasn’t too worried,” Parkes said.
“They just eased the pace around the first bend and he got pulling quite hard so I thought I was better off to let him roll forward and get him into his own rhythm and from there he just travelled well.
“When he did get to the front he was just too good. I kept looking back to check how much I was actually in front by.
“I have sat up on one, years ago, when I thought I was home-and-hosed, so I like to make sure they do get to the line or else it’s a costly suspension.”
Winning trainer Howie Mathews was gobsmacked by the ease of the win of Sampson who is like a member of the family.
“It was an amazing win,” Mathews said.
“Early when he was in trouble I thought ‘what’s parkesy doing?’ but he just had so much horse he had to let him stride along, and that’s the deal with the horse, he is a good one-pacer.
“He’s close to our heart and he’s fantastic. He’s just an everyday mate. He’s always there.”
The 93-rated stayer has now won 11 of his 64 starts and $435,000 in prizemoney. – NZ Racing Desk
Race Replay: Trentham Race 3 - 16 March 2019