Saturday’s Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial (1400m) at Te Rapa was an eagerly anticipated clash between a number of up-and-coming talents, but it turned into a tour de force by New Zealand’s most exciting three-year-old.
Crocetti (Zacinto x Gracehill) extended his unblemished record to five out of five with another dominant display, leading every step of the way in the hands of premiership-leading jockey Warren Kennedy.
The Zacinto gelding was already the favourite for the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 11, and the TAB reacted to Saturday’s spectacular performance by cutting his odds from $1.90 to $1.50.
Saturday’s Sarten was the second black-type success for Crocetti, who had also led all the way in the Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at Ruakaka on August 19 and romped to victory by four and a half lengths.
In between times, he lined up over 1200m at Te Rapa and took a sit in third place before bursting out of an awkward position to score another easy win.
The step up to 1400m on Saturday posed no problems for Crocetti, who returned to his previous front-running tactics and never gave the opposition a look in. He ran his rivals into the Te Rapa turf, kicking powerfully in the straight and maintaining a clear advantage all the way to the finish.
Crocetti is trained by Danny Walker and Arron Tata for owner-breeder Daniel Nakhle. His five-start, five-win career has now banked $198,275 in prize-money.
“He’s a dream, he really is,” Walker said. “That was a good win today.
“He learned a lot last start – it was just one of those things, the way the race was run, and he was able to show that he could take a sit just off the pace. Today I told Warren to just make his own luck, and he did that.
“We’re really looking forward to the 2000 Guineas now. The step up to 1600m won’t bother him at all.”
Crocetti is out of the twice-winning O’Reilly mare Gracehill, who is a full-sister to Group Three winner Killarney and half-sister to the multiple Australian Group winner Crosshaven.
The previously undefeated Lupo Solitario was eating into Crocetti’s margin in the closing stages of Saturday’s race and got into second, a length and a half from the winner, while perennial placegetter To Catch A Thief was again close up in third – the seventh time he has filled that position in an eight-start career.
Lupo Solitario will not head to Christchurch for the 2000 Guineas next month. To Catch A Thief’s third placing has seen him move into fourth favouritism for the Riccarton classic at $10, behind Crocetti, Lantern Way ($8) and Trobriand ($8).