Impressive last start Hastings winner Mustang Valley (Vanbrugh – Cream of the Crop) lifted her game several notches on Saturday as she claimed her first success at stakes level when taking out the Gr.3 Boehringer Ingelheim Metric Mile (1550m) at Awapuni.
The four-year-old daughter of Vanbrugh had been competitive at the highest level during her three-year-old campaign where she numbered stakes placings in the Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m) and Gr.3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) will also finishing a creditable fifth in the Gr.1 New Zealand One Thousand Guineas (1600m).
Trainer Andrew Forsman gave the mare a decent winter spell and she returned for her current spring campaign with a runner-up finish at Te Rapa before bolting home in rating 75 company over 1400m at Hastings earlier in the month.
Encouraged by that performance Forsman lined her up in Saturday’s Group Three feature and she didn’t disappoint as she steamed home out wide in the hands of Courtney Barnes to register her third win from just 15 career starts.
Settled near the rear in the early stages, Barnes didn’t make her run on the mare until nearing the 600m where she took her to the outside and quickly moved around the field to loom into contention on the home turn.
Barnes asked for a final effort at the 300m and Mustang Valley bounded clear to hit the line over two lengths to the good of Aromatic, who battled on strongly to take second from gallant pacemaker Deerfield who fought on well for third.
Forsman, who was hosted by some of his owners at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground where Geelong and Sydney clashed in the AFL Grand Final admitted he had only caught the final 400m of the race.
“We were having trouble watching the race as we couldn’t get much of a signal, but I managed to see the last 400m which was fairly impressive,” he said.
“I thought Courtney did a great job as I did tell her that she is a mare who will knock off on you if you leave her to her own devices and she kept her up to the mark in the straight when she put that break on them.
“She has really strengthened up this time in and while she was very good as a three-year-old, she was probably doing it all on natural ability.
“Now she has furnished she looks like she can fulfil that early promise.”
Forsman will be keeping a close eye on the weather in the Hawke’s Bay area this week with Mustang Valley still holding a nomination for next Saturday’s Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at Hastings.
“She goes well on rain affected tracks so if they get the rain predicted at Hastings during the week then we are likely to push ahead with a start in the Group One,” he said.
“A genuine wet track would certainly play in her favour and while she is going well she deserves her chance in a race like that.”
Mustang Valley firmed into an $8 third favourite for the Arrowfield Stud Plate in a market headed by Imperatriz ($2.70) and La Crique ($3), neither of whom are guaranteed starters on a very heavy track.
Bred by Windsor Park Stud out of their New Approach mare Cream Of The Crop, Mustang Valley becomes the second stakes winner for her sire Vanbrugh who stands for a fee of $6,000+GST at Windsor Park Stud for the 2022 breeding season.
Mustang Valley’s Group Three victory provided the in-form Forsman stable with an Awapuni double, with Eagle Tarzan scoring in a Rating 65 event earlier on the card.
Forsman is a clear third on the trainers’ premiership, with 10 domestic wins to his name while his trio of Australian raiders Mr Maestro, She's Licketysplit and Saint Bathans have all raced with good success, with the latter to step out at Sandown on Sunday.
– NZ Racing Desk