Former Kiwi galloper Irish Flame (Zed (NZ)- Fleur De L'orient (NZ) by Thunder Gulch) overcame a torrid run and a frantic finish to score a narrow victory in Saturday's Listed A$500,000 Ballarat Cup (2000m) under jockey Michael Walker.
Prepared by Mornington trainer Brett Scott, Irish Flame has been in rich form, and defied a tough run from barrier 16 to win in a close finish from favourite Affair To Remember and Game Keeper.
The son of Zed transferred from Scott’s old boss John Wheeler after a Waverley trial in late June and the six-time winner in New Zealand has now had eight starts for his new conditioner for three wins and four placings.
“From the wide gate, he didn’t get any favours in the run,” Scott said.
“He was three-deep without cover for pretty much the whole trip.
“He came off the bridle just before the corner and I thought we might be in a bit of trouble but he hung tough.
“John Wheeler had him in New Zealand from the time he was a yearling.
“He was a handy horse over there. He was in the Derby but wasn’t good enough at that stage.
“Since he’s been in Melbourne every race has been good. He’s improved with every run and he’s a good, tough stayer.”
Irish Flame won the Gr.3 Taranaki 2YO Classic (1200m) as a juvenile and is the only progeny of Grangewilliam Stud stallion Zed, a noted sire of stayers, to win as a two-year-old.
The fairytale story of Zed continues to deliver, with the son of Zabeel and Emerald Dream providing 5.2 percent stakes winners to runners, highlighted by outstanding mare Verry Elleegant, a six-time Group One winner.
Jockey Michael Walker said it was particularly pleasing to ride the feature winner for Scott, given their long history stemming back to days in Taranaki working for Kiwi horseman Allan Sharrock.
“Brett Scott actually taught me how to ride,” Walker said.
“He was the foreman at the stable that I very first went to. The owners, all the people in Hawera, I need to thank them for the opportunity to stay on a remarkable horse.”
Walker said despite travelling wide, Irish Flame travelled well and had plenty to give.
“The horse had a hard run but I wasn't worried because they only went steady, so I was happy where I was,” he said.
“If he found the line, he had three lengths on them, but he just won't run away from them. I got there too early, but he fought on.”
Out of the Thunder Gulch mare Fleur de l’Orient, Irish Flame is a half-brother to the stakes performer Langridge Street (Elvstroem). – NZ Racing Desk