In a thrilling finish to the Listed Phils Electrical & Gipsy Caravans Ryder Stakes (1200m), Cambridge visitor and race favourite Itza Charmdeel got in the deciding stride at the winning post to claim the two-year-old feature at Otaki.
The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained son of Charm Spirit went into the race as an impressive last-start winner at Rotorua and attracted strong support to close off as the $2.70 Fixed Odds favourite.
Punters could be excused at feeling slightly sick when rider Sam Weatherley found himself squeezed out of a gap at the point of the home turn when attempting to lodge his finishing burst.
Weatherley balanced him up as he sought better going out wide and he charged after eventual runner-up Quirky Habits and Medatsu, who were fighting out a desperate finish.
With a couple of large bounds Itza Charmdeel thrust his head in front where it mattered to the delight of his large band of owners who were on-course to celebrate the victory.
Wellwood admitted he was thankful to see hear judge Dick Hunt announce his charge as the winner after some lengthy deliberations.
“I’ve watched the replay a few times on television now and I’m still not sure he got there,” Wellwood said.
“I’m certainly glad he got the call as I think he would have been hard done by to get beaten after he eased himself out of the gap between those two horses entering the straight.
“I think he just didn’t like being squeezed up but when he found clear air Sam said he really lengthened stride and just flew the last 50m.
“He had won well on a similar track at Rotorua and had worked well since then, but you always need a little luck on your side to get a win like this and it was our turn today.”
Wellwood advised the horse would now go out for a well-earned break after more than exceeding expectations during his three-race campaign.
“He is still very immature both mentally and physically, so a nice break now will do him the world of good,” he said.
“To be fair, we didn’t think he would get this far as he appeals as more of a three-year-old type, so to do what he has is very exciting looking ahead to next season.
“Sam did say he felt his action would be better suited to good ground so he could be quite a nice prospect around Christmas time once he comes back into work.”
Out of the Dundeel mare Whatadeel, Itza Charmdeel is closely related to a host of Australian stakes performers including former Australian Champion three-year-old miler of 1999-2000 and internationally acclaimed stallion Redoute’s Choice. – By Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk