Ric O'Shea and owner Andy Denham. Photo by Matt Smith.
The grin on trainer Steven Prince's face after the
$75,000 White Robe Lodge Handicap on Saturday told the story of
Ric O'Shea's win in the biggest race on Otago's calendar.
There was another element to the grin, though, as Prince
could look back with satisfaction over his decisions leading
up to Saturday's mile.
Prince, who is based at Wingatui, was left with two options
for the O'Reilly gelding's lead-up race after things went
awry at Timaru in December when the 5yr-old held his breath
during the running.
Prince opted to send Ric O'Shea to Gore instead of a race at
Riccarton, and due to the horse's high rating in a rating 85
benchmark affair, he carried 63.5kg but ran on well to finish
''A lot of people bagged me for 63.5kg, but we tried some
gear changes [a tongue tie and a shadow roll] on him, and it
worked at Gore,'' Prince said.
Prince won the group three mile in 2004 with Volronamo, but
he is now having to reassess his rankings of horses he's
trained after the ''very satisfying'' win.
''This horse is really good,'' he said.
''He's getting towards the best horse I've trained.''
Prince has also won listed races with Chaparella, Volronamo
and Whyte Haze, while Tooth is his other group 3 winner after
claiming the 2000 Stewards Stakes.
The win provided Kylie Williams with a race-to-race double
after her success in the Dunedin Gold Cup and also gave
Palmerston owner/breeder Andy Denham some black-type success
for his mare Fellowship.
The Success Express mare - who placed at group three level in
Melbourne during her race career - had three of her foals
racing at Wingatui on Saturday, with Ric O'Shea joined by Red
Bull, who finished fifth in a special conditions 1400m
maiden, and High Jinks, who was 10th in a rating 65 2070m
''This has really set her up for other siblings,'' Denham
Denham has always chosen top-quality sires, with High Jinks
being by High Chaparral, and Ric O'Shea appears to have
inherited the best traits from O'Reilly. Patience has
certainly paid off for Denham, who farms sheep and cattle at
Stoneburn, just west of Palmerston.
''I've been waiting for something like this,'' he said.