The Lisa Latta-trained Belardo Boy (NZ) (Belardo) made the most of an abbreviated race meeting at Trentham on Saturday when he stormed to victory in the opening event.
The Lisa Latta-trained three-year-old took advantage of a rails-hugging ride by Danielle Johnson to produce a powerful home straight sprint which saw him collar the pace-making Lady Koval (American Pharoah) in the shadows of the post to register his second career victory.
Fears for the meeting quickly became apparent as the jockeys returned to scale, with video replays showing the Mike Breslin-rained Son Of Thunder (NZ) (Zebedee) slipping badly at the start, whilst Cambridge visitor Regazzo (NZ) (Tavistock) almost came to grief during the running as he struggled to keep his feet on the home turn.
Drizzly rain overnight and throughout Saturday morning had seen the track downgraded to an official Dead5 rating to start the day, but once stipendiary stewards had spoken with jockeys after the first event, the decision was taken to abandon the rest of the meeting in the interest of safety and the welfare of both horse and rider.
Johnson had been reluctant to comment about the track during a post-race interview, preferring to focus on the effort by her mount.
“I was counting the dollars at the top of the straight when they all began rolling off the fence,” she said.
“He has been a horse that has taken some time, as he had been a bit green when I had ridden him in the past.
“He really pinged off the surface today when I asked him to sprint.”
Following the abandonment, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing announced that the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) would now be run at Te Rapa on Saturday 11 December, while the other feature race, the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) will also be run at that meeting as a replacement for the 2YO SWP 1200m event that had been programmed.
Regazzo’s trainer Shaune Ritchie was involved in the aftermath of the race and was adamant that the Industry has plenty of work to do in the area of presenting a safe racing surface during the summer months.
“It is certainly disappointing in what has occurred due to an issue that has been around in our Industry for a number of years now,” he said.
“I think we all understand that the goal is to ensure racing goes ahead, but when these circumstances occur with abandonments due to a slippery surface there doesn’t seem to be any long term follow up to fix the problem.
“I have no qualms with the outcome today as it was clearly unsafe to race with the hard base underneath the grass cover making it very slippery.
“I feel for the owners and people involved as the costs for things like float fees, personal travel and accommodation are substantial and the majority of prizemoney has gone up in smoke.
“The onus has to be on our governance structures to do more in this area to get it right.”
Ritchie was complimentary of the work of raceday officials and the decisions they made in dealing with the abandonment.
“I think the decision to not try and race tomorrow (Sunday) is the right one as any remedial work undertaken alters the surface quite radically and the issue of potential joint and muscle injuries for the horses comes into play,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have run our other two horses that were in and I would think the fields would have been decimated with other trainers thinking the same way.
“When the stewards indicated the two feature races would be going to Te Rapa, I thought it was the right idea to try and maintain the fields as best they could.
“What we need now is the right decisions around the long-term fix as we have a multi-million-dollar industry that keeps shooting itself in the foot, which is to the detriment of those investing their hard-earned in it.
“Quite simply, we have to do better.” Ritchie reported that Regazzo had pulled up well and would likely step up in distance shortly as he targets a start in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie in March.