Roger James and Robert Wellwood turned their Wellington Cup Carnival fortunes around with an impressive victory by Sudbina in the Gr.3 New Zealand Bloodstock Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on Saturday.
Sudbina’s Desert Gold heroics came seven days after a frustrating afternoon of near-misses for the Cambridge trainers on the opening day of the carnival last weekend. They saddled Zabmanzor for a second placing in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m), a long head behind Quintessa, while stablemate Apostrophe was beaten by a head by Churchillian in the Gr.3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m).
“After having to settle for a couple of close seconds in Group One and Group Three races last week, it’s really nice to get a good win today,” Wellwood said.
James and Wellwood headed south on Saturday with high hopes for Sudbina. The talented daughter of Almanzor had finished a commendable sixth in a star-studded Gr.2 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) and fourth in the Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m), then warmed up for the Desert Gold with a stylish come-from-behind victory at Hastings on January 6.
Being stuck with gate 12 in Wednesday morning’s barrier draw may have slightly dented the confidence of Sudbina’s connections, but in the end it proved to be no obstacle in the $120,000 three-year-old fillies’ feature.
Rider Kozzi Asano eased Sudbina back to last behind a strong early speed set by Bella Corno. Asano was happy to bide his time at the tail of the field until around the 600m mark, when he pushed the button and swooped forward out wide.
All eyes were drawn to the outside of the track at the top of the Trentham straight, where Sudbina and the favourite Grail Seeker accelerated side by side and burst to the front together.
They left the rest of the field behind and bounded clear, with Sudbina edging ahead of Grail Seeker to score by three-quarters of a length. The Entertainer finished third, almost four lengths behind the first pair.
“She had an electric turn of foot,” Asano said. “I thought I might have gone too early.
“I just tried to keep her in her rhythm for most of the race today, and then off she went. Once she got a clear run, she was away.
“The way she accelerated at the end of the race today, I’d say that more distance would be no problem for her.”
Sudbina has now had seven starts for three wins and a placing, earning $114,765 in stakes for owner-breeders Frantic Bloodstock and Haunui Bloodstock.
“We were disappointed when the draws came out for this race earlier in the week, but the way the track has worked out and the way this race ended up being run, it probably worked in our favour a little bit,” Wellwood said. “What she did there was very nice.
“We’ve been scratching our heads a little bit in terms of what distance might suit her best. We were just hoping she’d get the mile in this race, but off today’s performance, perhaps she might go even further. We’ll talk to her connections and work out a plan from here.”
Sudbina is a half-sister to Fix, who was New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year in the 2012-13 season and won eight races including the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m), Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m) and Gr.2 Sir Tristram Fillies’ Classic (2000m). She also placed in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) and Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).
Saturday’s Desert Gold Stakes was the seventh leg of this season’s edition of the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series. Sudbina has now joined the table with her first 6 points of the series, moving into equal sixth place alongside Quintessa. Molly Bloom heads the table with 20 points, with Impendabelle second on 15 and Still Bangon third with 10.
The remaining four legs of the series are all run over longer distances, starting with the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 10.