Classy three-year-old Desert Lightning (Pride of Dubai x Isstoora) thrust himself to the forefront of discussions surrounding the Gr.1 Auckland Thoroughbred Racing New Zealand Derby (2400m) when he narrowly defeated Waitak to claim victory in the Gr.2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Pukekohe.
The Peter and Dawn Williams-trained runner has been highly competitive throughout his Classic season with a half head runner-up finish to Pier in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in the spring preceding an eye-catching late run for third behind Prowess and Wild Night in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at his most recent start.
Racing over a middle distance for the first time, the son of Pride Of Dubai lobbed along nicely in midfield for rider Vinnie Colgan before shadowing Waitak into contention approaching the home bend.
The pair set down to a two-horse duel over the closing stages which went in favour of $3.90 second favourite Desert Lightning by a long head over $2.60 favourite Waitak, with Warsaw ($22.10) solid through the line in third, beaten three-lengths.
An emotional Peter Williams was delighted to see his charge finally gain a victory at stakes level and indicated he was right on track for the Derby, which will be conducted at Te Rapa in a fortnight.
“Everything went well and I’m just so pleased,” Williams said.
“I’ve stuck with Vinnie all the way through and I am just rapt to win this race.
“There’s a way to go yet (to the Derby) but we’re halfway there.
“I don’t know why but the media just don’t seem to go for this horse, but he had the best form in the race and he has run some fast times home, just got beaten in the Guineas and went a great run in the Karaka Million.
“People just don’t seem to give him credit for it.”
Colgan was equally as impressed by the effort of the horse to settle and cope with his first attempt past 1600m.
“Settling and figuring out how to get the 2100m were the main things we had to do today looking forward to the Derby,” he said.
“He did that in perfect order and had a good, tough finish.
“They went pretty slow through the first half and picked up at the half mile, but I was on the back of the right horse (Waitak) at just the right time.
“He has solid form and has been a bridesmaid behind some very smart horses in the past.”
Williams outlaid $150,000 to secure Desert Lightning from the Little Avondale Stud draft during the Book 1 sale at Karaka in 2021 for owners Barneswood Farm Ltd for Sarah Green & Ger Beemsterboer.
Bred by the Mahoenui Partnership, Desert Lightning is out of the High Chaparral mare Isstoora, an unraced daughter of stakes winning juvenile Murjana and from the family of Redoute’s Choice.
He has now won two of his 10 starts for just over $284,000 in prizemoney.
TAB Bookmakers reacted to the win by shortening Desert Lightning into the $8 third favourite for the Derby behind Sharp ‘N’ Smart ($2.20) and Prowess ($4). – NZ Racing Desk