Day At The Track

A Star in command

10:15 AM 10 May 2017 NZST
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Star Commander
HRNZ photo

From a maiden pace on a Sunday afternoon to a $200,000 event on a premier Friday night might seem like worlds apart, but Nigel McGrath is hoping his latest find, Star Commander, is up to the challenge.

The imposing son of Art Major has been long touted by his trainer as being a little bit better than average and showed with a rather effortless victory on Sunday at Rangiora that he’s got the necessary to mix it with the best two-year-old’s in the land.

“I’ve always liked him, he’s got all the right signs of being a good horse,” McGrath said.

“The improvement in him from his first run to Sunday was quite noticeable and hopefully he can improve again for this week.”

This week’s assignment is the $200,000 is the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Open Final at Listed level where he will have to square up with the well credentialed pacers Spankem, All You Need Is Faith, The Devil’s Own, Alta Maestro, Mach Shard and his talented stablemate, Aloka.

“It’s a big jump up in class, but I think he’s good enough to be competitive,” McGrath said.

A $56,000 purchase at the Christchurch Yearling Sales last year, Star Commander is the fourth foal of Group One winning mare, Susie Maguire.

A daughter of Presidential Ball, she won the Caduceus Club Classic and the NZ Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Championship at two and then won the Ladyship Stakes as a three-year-old and ran second to Lizzie Maguire in the 2YO Emerald at the inaugural running of the Harness Jewels at Ashburton in 2007.

Third on debut behind Aloka and Ashley Locaz on Diamonds Day at Invercargill 10 days ago, a much more tractable and kind Star Commander showed up to Rangiora.

“He got pretty keen down South, and in the end it might have taken it out of him and cost him finishing closer.

“He didn’t really lose any ground on the two good ones, but more held his own.

“So we made some changes to his gear during the week and they seemed to work.”

Ricky May produced a confident drive on the favourite and put him into the race before taking cover and unleashing at the top of the straight where he cleared away to win by a comfortable one and half lengths.

Star Commander stopped the clock in a slick 2.26.6 for the 2000 metres.

“He was knocking off a bit there at the finish, so he had a bit in store which is always a good sign.”

McGrath got mixed news when the draws were released for Friday night’s $200,000 event with Aloka drawing up well on the front line and Star Commander set to start from four on the second line, but with the added advantage of speed horses in front of him in Alta Maestro and Mach Shard as well as Aloka.

Matt Markham

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