After bemusing trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood with a debut performance that is best forgotten, three-year-old Mark Twain showed what he is capable of with a convincing victory over 1600m in maiden company at Hawera on Saturday.
The son of resident Rich Hill Stud sire Shocking had been expected to perform creditably when making his first racetrack appearance at Pukekohe last month but spent the majority of the race at the rear of field, eventually beating just three runners home.
It was a shock for James as he had been expecting a forward showing from his charge.
“I just don’t know what happened at Pukekohe as he looked like he had absolutely no idea what he was there for,” James said.
“He had done well at home and in the two trials he had so we were pretty confused by it all.
“We sent him back to the trials at Avondale where he won nicely and applied the blinkers for today and they seemed to have worked nicely for him.”
Ridden patiently by Kozzi Asano who settled the horse at the back in the early rush, Mark Twain commenced a sweeping run at the 600m and once he was cut loose by Asano in the run home, he delivered a powerful sprint to win easing away at the line by a length and a half.
“He is a horse with a lovely disposition, but like a lot of staying three-year-olds, he still has plenty of maturing to do,” James said.
“He is nominated for the Derby (Gr.1, 2400m) although we won’t be rushing to get him there.
“He does have some lovely staying blood in his family and he has taken the first step towards better things today.”
Raced by Terry Henderson’s OTI Racing, Mark Twain is out of the Prized mare Pinders Prize and is the younger half-brother to accomplished stayer Pentathlon who was runner-up in the 2016 Gr.2 Wellington Cup (3200m) and was placed in both the Gr.2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) and Gr.3 Lexus Stakes (2500m).
His extended family also includes multiple Group Two winner Pentathon and Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner Starline.
The James and Wellwood stable is preparing for a busy Christmas and New Year period with a number of runners set for stakes races across both Boxing and New Year’s day including talented three-year-filly Prowess who will tackle the Gr.2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Te Rapa on January 1 after impressing when running third to quality mares Babylon Berlin and Levante in an open 1000m trial at Matamata on Friday. – NZ Racing Desk