Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood capped an already stellar day at Te Rapa on Saturday when Two Illicit strode clear of her rivals to claim the Gr.1 Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes (1600m), the first elite-level success of her career.
The Cambridge conditioners had earlier secured a stakes double with Concert Hall in the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m), closely followed by Cheaperthandivorce taking out the Gr.3 SKYCITY Hamilton Waikato Cup (2400m).
Carrying the familiar Trelawney Stud colours of the Taylor family, who also bred and race Cheaperthandivorce, Two Illicit had been a warm favourite for the event at Trentham last week before the meeting was abandoned and was solidly supported to start a $4.80 second favourite behind the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Aegon ($3.50).
Despite starting from the outside barrier (12) rider Danielle Johnson used all her skill to have Two Illicit beautifully relaxed one off the fence in midfield throughout before looming into contention approaching the home turn.
Johnson set the five-year-old daughter of Jimmy Choux alight at the 500m as she looped the field to take over shortly after straightening.
Asked for the supreme effort at the 200m, Two Illicit bounded clear to win stylishly by a length from Prise De Fer, who recorded his third Group One placing in succession, and Tiptronic who shaded Gino Severini and Harlech for third.
An excited Johnson was left a little dumbfounded by her luck shortly after the start when finding her midfield position.
“Honestly the position I ended up in, I was thinking how many have I taken down to get this beautiful spot,” she said.
“All jokes aside, well done to the team as she was presented beautifully today and it is great she could get it done this week after going into last week as the favourite.
“A big thanks to Cherry and Brent Taylor as when the race was cancelled last week, I sent a text to Cherry and got on this ride, which was pretty lucky, as they are great people to ride for.”
Johnson replaced the suspended Vinnie Colgan on the mare, with Colgan also missing the winning rides aboard Concert Hall and Packing Rockstar earlier in the day.
Wellwood was sporting a grin a mile wide as he accepted congratulations after the race.
“I just can’t believe it and certainly won’t be forgetting this day anytime soon,” he said.
“It was a super win by a very good mare.
“After barrier rise and when she was in a good position, I was very happy. The draw was always the niggle, but Danielle gave her a wonderful ride and had her in a lovely rhythm.
“She really deserved this Group One and it is a testament to our stable staff as she has had a lot of niggles and they have put a lot of work in.
“She has always had the ability but has had a few soundness issues that have held her back, but everyone has done a massive job and they should be very proud.
“It is sad that Vinnie couldn’t be involved, but I’m sure he is watching with a smile on his face.”
Bred by the Taylor family and raced by Brent, Cherry, Jane and Faith Taylor, along with Scott Malcolm, Two Illicit has now won eight of her 17 starts and over $670,000 in prizemoney.
The Group One victory is also a timely update for connections of her four-year-old half-sister Rich Girl, who will be offered for sale in Monday night’s gavelhouse.com catalogue (Lot 26) as a racing and breeding proposition. – NZ Racing Desk