Hastings visitor Hunta Pence overcame his apparent dislike of the Awapuni track to register his biggest career victory when he took out the Gr.3 Bramco Granite and Marble Manawatu Cup (2300m) in a desperate finish on Saturday.
The Patrick Campbell-trained eight-year-old had failed to finish in a dividend bearing placing in ten previous trips to the Palmerston North circuit, including fifth place finishes in the two previous editions of the staying feature.
A last-start winner of the Listed Wanganui Cup (2040m) last month, Hunta Pence was overlooked by many before Saturday’s contest but a masterly ride by experienced jockey Darryl Bradley saw him land the thick end of the prize by a bare nose from fellow veteran Dolcetto after the pair waged war in the concluding stages.
Bradley had Hunta Pence travelling sweetly throughout but looked to be running for a minor placing when Dolcetto tackled pacemaker Camino Rocoso with 200m to run.
Bradley never gave up on Hunta Pence who lifted strongly in the last few strides to poke his nose in front right on the line from a gallant Dolcetto, with Camino Rocoso clinging to third ahead of Sir Nate and Felaar.
Campbell had been confident of a good showing as his charge had thrived following his last start victory but was still in doubt as to whether a hard run 2300m would suit.
“I’ve always thought he was best at around 2000m as a couple of times when he has stepped up to 2200m and further he has just been found wanting in the last 200m,” he said.
“That happened in this race twice and also in the Hawkes Bay Cup but leading in to today I couldn’t fault him as he has just thrived since Wanganui.
“I think he got a decent shot of confidence out of that win and I was expecting a good run today as long as Darryl could get cover, hold him up and have one shot at them.
“He did it perfectly and he really dug in over the last few strides and put his head in front where it counts.”
Campbell will let the dust settle after the win, with Hunta Pence likely to have a week in the paddock before returning for a shot at further stakes glory at Trentham.
“He can have a week off as that was a tough run,” he said.
“I haven’t really looked around that much, but I think there is a race at Trentham he is suited for.
“The Trentham Stakes (Gr.3, 2100m) on the first day of their carnival is run at set weights and penalties, so I will have a look how he comes into that race under those conditions and if it is suitable then that is what we will aim for.”
With his victory Hunta Pence has now win ten of his 55 career starts and over $250,000 in prizemoney.
The win was also the first in a race to race double for Bradley who took out the last event on the card aboard Podkast. – NZ Racing Desk