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Soldier Blue rewards owner-breeders' patience

New Zealand Cup winner Soldier Blue (7g Sir Sian-Va Bene) won the 2500-metre VRC Roy Higgins Quality at Flemington on his ear today for Waikato owner-breeders Alistaire & Isabel Barker and Cambridge trainer Royce Dowling.

A very big, imposing individual who needs firm ground to show his best, Soldier Blue was always travelling well and, although taken wide on the home turn by jockey Brett Prebble, he forged clear impressively in the straight to win by a widening four lengths.

The Barkers have shown admirable patience with Soldier Blue who was not broken in until he was three or four and probably didn't break even on his upkeep until last November's New Zealand Cup win. His last start before today was in Cyclades' Wellington Cup on 26 January, where he finished sixth.

In the hands of one of New Zealand's canniest trainers, Soldier Blue looks set to win a major battle or two in Australia. The Duke of Norfolk Stakes this weekend at Flemington, and the Sydney Cup (in which he has 51 kg) are two immediate possibilities for the Barkers and Dowling to consider.


- Susan Archer