The long trip home to New Plymouth from Hamilton on Saturday evening flew by for trainer Robbie Patterson as he reflected on what had happened just a few hours earlier at Te Rapa.
Relishing the damp underfoot conditions, classy mare Coventina Bay out-finished Vernanme to take out the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) to add a Group One title to her already outstanding career record, whilst also providing Patterson with his first elite level victory when training in his own right.
Patterson had experienced the Group One feeling once before when in partnership with Kevin Gray, when the pair produced Legs to win the 2006 Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m), but this time it was Patterson’s solo responsibility and he relished the occasion.
“I have to admit it was a pretty good trip home, even though it was late in the day.
“I had to wait around until the last as I was taking one home for Wheels (John Wheeler), which also won, so it was a fairly lucky load on the truck.
“It did mean I couldn’t really celebrate too hard, despite there being plenty of yahooing, but I intend to make up for that today (Sunday).”
Patterson had been confident of a good showing when he left his New Plymouth base on Saturday morning and that feeling grew as he saw the moisture in the Te Rapa surface due to the rain that had fallen in the previous 24 hours.
“It all just fell into place really and I knew she was ready to go as her work had been terrific and when I weighed her in the morning she was exactly 445kgs, which is her prime racing weight,” he said.
“I knew she would handle the track a little better than some of her rivals, but when you are racing at this level everything has to be right otherwise you get beaten.
“The race panned out well and Craig (Grylls) rode her superbly.
“When I saw how she was travelling at the 600m I got a little jolt as she was just ready to explode.
“To Vernanme’s credit, he really fought hard and made it a great race, which is what you want from Group One racing.
“To actually win is amazing and honestly I think she deserves to have a Group One to her name.”
Patterson is quick to pay tribute to the mare who he believes has put his name on the training map and is responsible for him having a full barn of 40 horses and more waiting to come.
“I owe this mare it all really, as she has put me on the map,” he said.
“There is no doubt that over the past couple of seasons she has kept my name in lights and that has meant I have had people wanting to place horses with me.
“The racing game can be plenty hard and I’ve had some dark days along the way, where I wasn’t sure if it is all worth it, but after a win like that I can tell you it is definitely worth it.
“I’m also aware that I have learnt so much from training a horse like her.
“She isn’t easy as she has her problems and we have the physio to her at least twice a week.
“I’ve made some dumb mistakes along the way and I’m a lot wiser now, so hopefully I can now get her to an even higher level.”
Patterson is determined to return to Australia with Coventina Bay after she endured a luckless three race campaign in Brisbane last winter.
“I really want to go back and show the Aussies just how good she is,” he said.
“I felt I was on a steep learning curve over there and no matter what you have been told, you do have to experience it to fully appreciate the magnitude of the task.
“I had spoken with Wheels a number of times and wish I had listened a bit more, but now I’ve been there I think I can do a far better job with her this time.
“Now she has shown she can get the 2000m, I would dearly love to tackle a race like the Doomben Cup (Gr.1, 2000m) with her.
“She will most likely have two more starts here with the Bonecrusher Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) at Ellerslie and the Breeders’ Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m) at Te Rapa and then we will confirm if we are going over again.
“I’ve been in and seen her this morning and she weighs 444kgs and left half a dipper of feed, so she has bounced through the race extremely well.
“She had her head over the side of her box and was pretty keen to see me, which was a great feeling.”
With raceday duties completed Patterson is looking forward to some afternoon revelry to complete the weekend.
“The weather here is atrocious and blowing a gale, but I don’t think that will dampen the celebrations,” he said.
“The owners of Coventina Bay have organised a 4:30pm meeting at the local pub which will make for a great night, although the warm-up will be with a few close mates at 1pm so I can definitely see it being a slow morning on Monday.” – NZ Racing Desk