Aegon (inner) gets the best of Amarelinha to win the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic at Ellerslie. Photo / Kirstin Ledington
Two different Aegon gambles paid off to the tune of $530,000 at Ellerslie on Saturday night.
The 2000 Guineas winner remained unbeaten when he held out Amarelinha in the $1 million Karaka Classic Mile, two outstanding three-year-olds going to the line all but locked together at the end of a stirring 1600m.
But in winning Aegon not only set up an almost certain Australian campaign but paid back the faith and patience of trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
They decided not to start Aegon between winning that 2000 Guineas in November and last night, a 10-week break that could have left his fitness vulnerable.
But they trained him to perfection to all but guarantee him New Zealand three-year-old of the year as he has also won the Hawke’s Bay Guineas, a massive return from a horse who was unheard of in August.
“That is a big, big win,” said the usually conservative Baker.
“For him to not have raced for 10 weeks, have never raced at Ellerslie and never even trialled right-handed. Not many could do that.”
Forsman, who selected Aegon at the Karaka Sales for the Zame family who also raced Jon Snow from the stable, shares in the ownership and he was full of praise for his owners.
“For the Zames to give us the flexibility to train him like this, straight into this race without a run, was key,” said Forsman.
While that gamble was crucial so too was the one from jockey Leith Innes, who stayed in traffic hunting a gap around the home bend while Amarelinha was forced to go wider.
Fresh-up with his fitness doubts, had Innes followed her wider he almost certainly had been beaten, his corner-cutting the difference.
“I just had to believe in the horse,” said Innes.
“He is a good one and these guys trained him super.”
Aegon could now be set for the Australian Guineas and maybe even the All Star Mile in Melbourne and his career reminds our breeding industry what a loss his sire Scared Falls may turn out to be after he died young last year.
On a day of stunning wins perhaps the most breathtaking was Levante’s come-from-last performance in the Westbury Classic after she was being pushed along by jockey Sam Collett at the 600m.
“She is funny like that but when she got balanced up, she just flies,” smiled Collett.
She heads to Te Rapa on February 13 which is also where Tiptronic is going for a defence of his Herbie Dyke title after he led throughout to win the Karaka Cup thanks to a masterful Billy Pike front-running ride.