Underrated three-year-old Palmetto defied a betting drift to claim the Listed Positive Signs Dunedin Guineas (1500m) at Wingatui with a swooping late run that carried him to a comfortable two length victory.
The Sally McKay-trained runner had looked to have real potential when winning impressively at Riccarton back in June at his only two-year-old start, but in five subsequent runs had failed to return at the head of the field.
Not that his form had been too discouraging as he had run fourth in four of those five runs including an eye-catching late finish behind the ill-fated Mackenzie Lad in the Listed Gore Guineas (1355m) at his most recent start.
The 1500m of Saturday’s contest was expected to suit the long-striding customer and so it proved as he settled towards the rear in the early stages before storming home down the middle of the track for rider Shankar Muniandy, to defeat Canterbury raider Shameless Tart and maiden runner Master Marko.
McKay had been looking forward to her charge stepping out over more ground but felt he may have been better suited to his next challenge which will be the Listed ILT Ascot Park Hotel Southland Guineas (1600m) at Invercargill in a fortnight.
“He’s still got a lot to learn but has been going well without really threatening to win,” she said.
“He was always going to relish a step up in distance, although I told his owners he would go a good race today but would be cherry ripe for the Southland Guineas in a fortnight.
“I thought he could feature, but he has blown me away by just how well he has hit the line for a really impressive win.”
McKay has known she has something special on her hands since his first-up juvenile victory but has played a patient game with her charge as she waited for him to fill out his imposing frame.
“He’s a pretty rangy type and still has a lot of filling out to do, especially in his front end,” she said.
“His racing manners have improved although he was on and off the bit a little today and still a little green in the run home.
“What was really impressive to the eye was how he charged away when he got that split in the home straight, which tells me he has a future over ground as he gets older.
“We haven’t planned anything past the Southland Guineas as he has been up a long time, so he can go there and then we might put him away while the weather is still good and let him enjoy a good, long break.”
From the third crop of White Robe Lodge resident stallion Ghibellines, Palmetto is the second foal of Darci Brahma mare Carolina Island and is closely related to a host of European stakes winners including Group One winners With You, We Are, Call The Wind and Gr.1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) winner, Dominant.
Palmetto becomes the fourth individual stakes winner for Ghibellines along with Markus Aurelius, Smokin’ Romans and El Gladiador. – NZ Racing Desk