The Cornege’s first success came with Kenobi, the Burgundy five-year-old among the outside chances, rated a $49 hope on the TAB tote in the Up The Wahs 1600.
Kenobi jumped smartly among the early leaders, but from his midfield draw (11) jockey Matt Cameron restrained the gelding to avoid a wide run to settle back near the tail of the 16-horse field.
Cameron utilised every metre of the long Pukekohe straight in getting Kenobi to the outside, and like the race’s namesake the Warriors, Kenobi defied the odds storming home late to prevail by a head over race-favourite Wallen.
“We couldn’t have scripted it better, it went totally to plan,” Fred Cornege said.
“He’s a horse that always had ability but had been a little bit soft and things hadn’t gone right for him.
“We were going to run him at Rotorua a couple of weeks ago but I said to the owners that I didn’t want to run him on a heavy track, it took a bit of convincing but it all worked out.
“He’s gone up to Rating 62 now so he’ll have to take that next step up, but we’ll space out his races and there’s plenty coming up over the next month over Christmas and into January so there will be plenty of opportunities for him.”
The Seattle Lodge matriarch’s were delighted to see promising four-year-old Highly Vindicated overcome the extreme outside draw to post their second victory of the meeting in the final event, the Auckland Thoroughbred Racing 1600.
A son of Highly Recommended, Highly Vindicated largely replicated the run of his older stablemate when settling back from the wide barrier under Joe Doyle.
The gelding remained back in the field approaching the 200m, but when called upon by Doyle he showed a strong turn-of-foot and powered over the top of Lingjun Xiongfeng to score by a head, race-favourite Agera also closing well late to get up for second.
“We were very pleased, he had to overcome a very wide draw but it’s not every day you can race for $75,000 in a Rating 65, so he was going to start regardless,” Cornege said.
“We spoke to Joe before the race and the plan was for him to go back and ride for luck, and as it turned out that’s what he got.”
Highly Vindicated had produced strong performances in his three-year-old season and finished midfield in the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m), but has flourished thus far as four-year-old with Cornege noting Doyle’s contribution to his success.
“Joe has been riding him in work alongside one of our track riders and that’s been a great assist, he’s a horse that cannot go out on the track alone otherwise he’ll dig his toes in and come home,” Cornege said.
“He’s a very tough horse, he’s not easy but it’s rewarding to see after the work we’ve put into him. He’s totally different to Kenobi, we could line up this horse every day of the week and it wouldn’t worry him.”
The victory was Highly Vindicated’s second on the trot this season after a string of minor placings, giving Cornege confidence to aim for the Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Final (2400m) on Boxing Day with the gelding.
“That’s where we’re going with him, it’s an opportunity available to us and we have the material to work with so we’ll have a crack at it,” Cornege said.
“He’s without a doubt a staying prospect, he placed last year as a three-year-old over further distance but we haven’t had the opportunity yet to get him out over ground so that’s the plan.”
– Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk