The familiar combination of trainer Stephen Marsh and owner Lib Petagna combined to take out another feature three-year-old staying event at Ellerslie on Sunday when Milford dashed home late to win the Listed Te Akau Gingernuts Salver (2100m).
Medaglia D’Oro colt Crown Prosecutor carried part-owner Petagna’s colours to victory in the 2015 Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) for Marsh, who will look to replicate that success in the blue riband event in March with Milford.
Marsh has made no secret of the high regard he holds for Milford despite him not having broken his maiden status in his first four starts. Stepped up to 2100m for his biggest test, the Savabeel colt responded with a powerful effort as he settled beautifully just off the speed for rider Leith Innes before looming into contention at the point of the home bend.
Just as race favourite Mongolian Wings looked to take control of the race, Milford ranged up alongside him before surging clear to score by just on a length from the fast-finishing Cheaperthandivorce and Edge Of Wonder, who shaded Mongolian Wings for third.
“He’s got any amount of ability, but he’s been quite green in his races to date,” Marsh said.
“We took the winkers off last time which probably didn’t work, but with those back on today he seemed to settle better during the running.
“He got a little bit lost coming around that last bend and took a few strides to balance up, but when he did find his feet again, he really put in nicely for an impressive win.”
Marsh will now ease up on the colt before bringing him back for the traditional lead-up to the New Zealand Derby, the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) on February 20.
“He can have a little break now and then come back and go through the Avondale Guineas on his way to the Derby,” he said.
“We will see how he does with the week in the paddock, but he is a very athletic type so I don’t think he will need another run before those two races, as they are his main targets.”
Bred and sold by Waikato Stud, Milford was purchased by bloodstock agent Bruce Perry for $360,000 from the Book 1 session at the 2019 National Yearling Sale at Karaka.
Milford is out of the O’Reilly mare Etiquette and comes from the extended family of Waikato Stud’s multiple Group One winner and former resident stallion, Sacred Falls who passed away tragically in December 2019. – NZ Racing Desk