Three-year-old Gunstock shot to the top of Gr.1 VRC Derby (2500m) markets as a $4.60 chance when proving too good for his rivals in the Gr.3 Neds Classic (2000m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Prepared by Caulfield trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr, who are avid fans of the colt’s late Cambridge Stud sire Tavistock, Gunstock relished the addition of blinkers for the first time and will head straight to the Derby on October 30 at Flemington.
Ridden by Jye McNeil, Gunstock, the $3.80 favourite, finished powerfully to overhaul filly El Patroness ($6) to score by 1-¾ lengths with Teewaters ($17) a length away third.
Kent Jnr said Gunstock, who is out of a Zabeel mare, was bred to run this type of trip, and further, and was given the perfect ride by McNeil.
"Today was the right time to put the blinkers on because he's going to go up in distance a fair bit now to the Derby," Kent Jnr said.
"Today we were going to have a look and see if they worked. They do work for this breed a lot.
"He's a very laid-back customer. I saw him in the yard there and he was almost half asleep.
"He's got a huge stride and Flemington will be his go."
The Caulfield trainers can also take heart from the fact the colt handled Soft7 conditions on Saturday as he advanced his record to two wins from four starts.
"We were a bit unsure coming in," Kent Jnr said.
"He worked and had trialled on soft and heavy ground, but we weren't so sure he loved it, and I think he'll be better on top of the ground."
Winning rider McNeil said there was plenty of upside, with the colt having a good look around after putting his rivals to the sword.
Bred by Brendan and Jo Lindsay of Cambridge Stud, Gunstock is bred on the famed Tavistock-Zabeel cross, which operates at 12 percent stakes winners to runners.
An $80,000 purchase by Jamie Beatson of Ohukia Lodge from Cambridge Stud’s 2020 Book 1 draft at Karaka, Gunstock is out of Zeranti, who is also the dam of Gunstock’s full brother The Irishman, a Group Two performer in Australia and a stakes performer in New Zealand.
Price, who at one stage prepared Tavistock for a handful of starts, with the multiple Group One winner trained for the majority of his career by Andrew Campbell, landed the 2015 VRC Derby with Tarzino, a son of Tavistock out of Zabeel mare Zarzino, with the likes of Werther, Toffee Tongue and Johnny Get Angry also classic winners bred on the successful cross.
“I was lucky enough to train Tavistock for three starts,” Price recalled.
“He won a $100,000 race at Flemington during the spring of his three-year-old year. I got a good feel for him and a good look at him. He trained off for the Caulfield Guineas.
“He was a particular type of horse. I always thought he’d be suited at Cambridge Stud to serve those staying New Zealand mares. He is one stallion that we just had a bit of a dip at.”
Zeranti is due to foal to Haunui Farm stallion Belardo in the coming weeks and will be covered by Cambridge Stud’s new sire Hello Youmzain this season, a multiple Group One winning sprinter by Kodiac.
Tavistock will be represented by three lots at the forthcoming New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sales on November 17 and 18. – NZ Racing Desk