Visiting Matamata rider Craig Grylls had a day to remember on Saturday when he took out the two feature races on the card at Awapuni, albeit in contrasting fashion.
Successful aboard the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Oneroa by just a nose in a desperate finish to a rating 74 1200m contest earlier in the day, Grylls repeated the dose in similar fashion in the Gr.3 Humphries Construction Manawatu Cup (2250m) aboard stablemate Marroni.
In between times he also guided class mare Coventina Bay to a decisive fresh-up win in the Gr.2 Carters Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) for New Plymouth trainer Robbie Patterson.
While the ease of the win on Coventina Bay was clear for all to see, Grylls earned every dollar of his riding fee aboard Marroni who looked certain to finish a gallant runner-up when tackled by fellow Cambridge raider Zee Falls in the last 150m.
Marroni refused to flinch and with Grylls riding for all he was worth, the pair held out a desperate lunge to deny Zee Falls and rider Lisa Allpress the victory.
The victory proved a useful tonic for Baker who is at home recovering from a knee replacement just on a fortnight ago, although he was already feeling happy with how the day had panned out after Oneroa brought up win number 1800 in New Zealand for the master trainer.
“I’m sitting on the couch resting my knee which I had done two weeks ago,” Baker said.
“I’ve had them both done now, so I’m looking forward to throwing away the crutches and getting life back to normal.
“I thought both of our winners today were very good efforts and some pretty determined riding by Craig.
“I’ve always had a lot of time for Marroni after I bought him for $90,000 at Karaka in 2018 out of the Westbury Stud draft.
“He has just needed a little time to come to it, although he has been wonderfully consistent and also hasn’t had the best of racing luck at times.
“He got decked in a fall at Te Rapa earlier this year and also was badly interfered with at Tauranga four starts ago, so it was nice to see him get a win like he had today.
“He can go out for a spell now and we will bring him back for something in the autumn. I think he could be the perfect horse to take to Sydney for some of those staying races in the lesser classes.”
Baker was also thrilled to achieve the New Zealand 1800-win milestone, which also stands beside the outstanding record he has built when travelling horses to Australia.
“I got sent some stats the other day and when Oneroa won, that was my 1800th in New Zealand,” he said.
“Marroni made it 1801 and I’m thrilled with the success we have had here over the years.
“I’m also pretty proud of how we have done in Australia, where we have won over sixty races, but more importantly that includes 48 stakes races with 23 Group Ones.
“I think all-up I’ve won 55 Group Ones here and in Aussie, so we’ve had a bit of success alright.”
Baker will be out to add to his Group One record in New Zealand with talented four-year-old Aegon who he confirmed will contest the Gr.1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day after having no luck in the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa last weekend. – NZ Racing Desk