Taranaki mare Coventina Bay reminded racegoers of her undoubted class when she came from last at the turn to down a small but quality field in the Gr.2 Carters Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni.
Unsighted since completing a somewhat disappointing three-race campaign during the Queensland Winter carnival back in June, trainer Robbie Patterson had given the six-year-old daughter of Shamexpress three trials in the last month to prepare the mare for her resuming run.
An effortless four and a half-length romp over 1200m at the Foxton trials nine days ago fitted her nicely for Saturday’s assignment with punters sending her out the $5.40 third favourite for the contest behind the Allan Sharrock-trained pair of Justaskme ($2.50) and Tavi Mac ($3.90).
Rider Craig Grylls adopted a patient approach throughout the race, opting to sit back before improving into contention on the home turn.
Just as Tavi Mac had shot clear and looked a likely winner inside the final furlong, Coventina Bay unleashed her deadly sprint finish and swept past her rival to claim victory by one and three-quarter-lengths with Cambridge visitor Hypnos fighting on well for third.
Patterson was in a buoyant mood after the victory, having the belief his charge was primed to win based on her final track gallop.
“That last trial at Foxton really brought her on and after she galloped so well during the week, I thought she would be very hard to beat today,” Patterson said.
“There were some very nice horses she was up against, so you are never too cocky about it all, but I just thought if she brought her A-game they would have their hands full.”
Adding to Patterson’s confidence was the fact the mare weighed in at 445kgs for the contest, her ideal racing weight and one she had failed to get near during her Brisbane campaign.
“I weighed her and she was right on 445kgs today and that is her perfect racing weight,” he said.
“In Australia couldn’t get below 460kgs, as she is such a good doer and she thrived over there.
“She didn’t get the rub of the green in Brisbane as she is a back runner and each race she contested turned out to be a sit and sprint affair.
“Her sectionals were just as good as the rest, but when you get back you just can’t be giving that class of horse such a big start.”
Patterson will now wait a few days before confirming just where Coventina Bay will make her next appearance, which may not be until the second day of the Wellington summer carnival at Trentham on January 29.
“I’ve got a bit of a quandary as to where we go next,” Patterson said.
“Her two main targets are the Thorndon Mile (Gr.1, 1600m) at Trentham and then the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) at Te Rapa after that.
“If we wait until the Thorndon, it will be six weeks between runs, so I had been thinking about the Rich Hill Mile (Gr.2, 1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s day.
“The problem there is that Craig is confirmed to ride Dragon Leap in the race, so I would need to find another rider, which I don’t really want to do.
“She does go well fresh, as you saw today, so I think we might just wait for the Thorndon, however that is not a decision for raceday, so I will wait and see for a few days.”
Coventina Bay has now won nine of her 18 starts and has amassed over $268,000 in prizemoney. – NZ Racing Desk