The superlatives being used about the riding of ex-pat South African Warren Kennedy went to a new level at Te Rapa on Sunday when he picked up a winning treble that included taking the Gr.3 Windsor Park Stud Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) aboard Dionysus.
Kennedy displayed superb judgement aboard the Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained five-year-old after the son of Ocean Park lacked early enthusiasm and settled well off a strong tempo set by outsider El Nymph.
Kennedy kept his mount in a steady rhythm and crept closer to the business end of the contest as the field approached the home turn.
Dionysus tracked the well fancied Self Obsession into contention and after a brief tussle got the upper hand and went to the line under a good grip to win by half a length with Zee Falls battling on gamely for third.
Kennedy, who had earlier taken the Gr.2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas (1600m) for the same training combination aboard Prowess before scoring in the Dunstan Stayers Championship Final (2400m) on the Lance Noble-trained Aquacade, deflected all praise to his mount after the victory.
“I wanted him just ahead of midfield, but he fluffed the start when he threw his head up as the gates opened,” he said.
“We were a bit further back than I wanted, but once the speed was that genuine going past the winning post the first time, I was just where I wanted.
“There was no way they were going to go that fast all the way, so I just bided my time with a lot of confidence and he came through really smartly.
“I know there is quality in the horse and I just had to make sure I got a clear run.
“He switches off really nicely in a race, is an easy horse to ride and gives you just what you want when you ask him.”
Raced by James’ long-time stable clients, Ron and Fran Dixon, Dionysus was a $45,000 purchase by James out of the Cambridge Stud draft during the Book 1 sale at Karaka in 2019.
James cut an emotional figure after the race as he praised the Dixons’ contribution to his stable over a number of years.
“We were pretty happy with his whole preparation and were expecting a big run today,” he said.
“It was a truly run race and normally the best horse wins when they are run like that.
“It’s a special thrill as he has some special owners.
“They were my first ever owners and we have had some tremendous success together. We’ve won Derbys, Adelaide Cups and over sixty Group and Listed races where we have been in the first three.
“They are just the most wonderful people to train for and to do this for them is just wonderful.”
James believes there is still more to come from his charge and believes the best may be seen from him in his next campaign, although he has an immediate goal later this month.
“I said to Ron before the race that he will be a better horse next year,” James said.
“Ron was the President of the Wellington Racing Club for a long time and we would dearly love to win the Wellington Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) for him.
“The way the horse relaxed today I don’t think the extra distance will be a problem for him.”
Epona Park will offer a yearling half-sister to Dionysus by Ardrossan as Lot 848 during the Book 2 sale at Karaka later this month. – NZ Racing Desk