Colin De Filippi could have been excused for turning to his left as Stent hit the line in Tuesday’s $45,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge and saying “Thanks mate.”
Because Maurice McKendry, driving runner-up Sovereignty, deserved an unofficial training credit for his role in Stent’s come from last win in the group two sprint.
McKendry has been the caretaker trainer for Stent for much of the last month, with De Filippi traveling north from his Canterbury base to put the finishing touches on the five-year-old.
“Maurice has done a great job with him and I knew when I got up here the other day and he said he couldn’t be happier that we were in with a massive show,” said De Filippi, who trains Stent in partnership with his wife Julie.
Not that the race panned out like De Filippi hoped.
He had expected to press forward from his outside draw and try and get in front of favoured rivals Habbiti and Stig but that plan soon went out the window as Sovereignty and The Fiery Ginga rushed off the gate to lead and trail.
That saw Stent settle last and when Stig trotted up to sit parked with Habibti on his back in the one-one, De Filippi had a lot of work to do.
But last season’s Anzac Cup winner trotted into the race powerfully down the back straight and forced Habibti into a pocket, from where she galloped at the 300m mark.
That left Stent to cruise clear for a one and half length win in a steady 1:57.8 for the mile.
It was only his second win of the season and suggested once again, at this still relatively early stage of his career, he is most potent over shorter trips than the 3200m of the Dominion or Rowe Cup.
He now heads to next Tuesday’s $80,000 National Trot at Alexandra Park before the De Filippis need to decide whether to chase the mega rich Australian double of the Glenferrie Farms Challenge and Great Southern Star in March.
While the winner left his rivals with few excuses, the connections of local hero Sovereignty will be relieved with his vastly-improved second.
He has lost all form during his most recent South Island campaign but showed how much he loves being home by blasting off the gate and trailing before punching home hard up the passing lane.
But veteran Stig suggested his days of winning mile races, particularly on 1000m tracks, may be over as he was flat out keeping up parked so he is probably better staying in New Zealand than tackling the autumn Aussie features, which are over the shorter trips.
Meanwhile, the Auckland Trotting Club will honour recently-retired champion trotter I Can Doosit at their premier meeting on Tuesday.
The $1.45million earner will lead out the field for one of the trotting races before being presented with a special dress rug celebrating his career.
Courtesy of Michael Guerin