Kevin Myers’ stable successfully defended its crown in the Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) with rising staying star Aljay (Rock ‘n’ Pop x Albacora) prevailing in a driving finish at Riccarton dominated by Central Districts raiders.
The Wanganui trainer had triumphed in last year’s edition of the Martin Collins-sponsored feature with Mondorani, who was unplaced in his title defence behind his younger barnmate.
He was able to celebrate a narrow victory as also a co-owner with great friend Charlie Gestro after Aljay repelled a stern challenge over the concluding stages by former stablemate Inmyshadow.
Myers originally prepared the son of Ferlax before he generously gifted him to his nephew Ashley Meadows, who trains at Awapuni, as a replacement for a group of owners after their first horse unfortunately broke down.
Aljay has now won four of his 17 starts and with a further eight minor placings has pushed his career earnings over the $260,000 mark.
The five-year-old settled back in the field before jockey Tina Comignaghi picked up ground before the turn and, after hitting the front 300m from home, held out the challenge of Inmyshadow to score by 0.2 lengths.
“It was a 10 out of 10 ride by Tina, she kicked clear and then my cousin’s horse came late so Dad would have been sweating at home that he might have given away the winner,” said Myers’ son Jason, who was in charge of the team at Riccarton.
“It was good to get one over on Ashley as there had been a bit of talk back and forward over the last couple of months.”
Aljay had been a winner on the course in Rating 75 company during the winter and the son of Rock ‘N’ Pop subsequently posted three placings before he finished a close second in the Listed Metropolitan Trophy (2500m) on the first day at Riccarton.
“We were confident heading into the Metropolitan and we were beaten by a horse (Campionsessa) that got the better run in the race,” Myers said.
“Tina just bided her time today and presented him at the top of the straight and the horse was really good.
“It’s been a long week and we’ve been a bit unlucky with a few, but we got the one we wanted.”
Comignaghi has enjoyed a successful association with the stable for some time and said everything fell perfectly into place for Aljay.
“We got a perfect run, we never lost any momentum and the horse gave plenty. It’s a big race and one I’ve always wanted to win and it’s great, Kevin has always supported me.”
Aljay and Inmyshadow had the finish to themselves with the Paul Moseley-prepared Mauna Loa more than 6.5 lengths back in third ahead of Starrybeel, who boxed on for fourth after enjoying a good run.
A memorable family double at Riccarton was also completed by Aljay as his half-brother is the former top jumper Tallyho Twinkletoe.
He was prepared by Myers to win last year’s Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) off the back of his lead-up victory in the Koral Steeplechase (4250m).
The son of St Reims was also successful in multiple prestige steeplechases in Australia when in the care of Victorian trainer Patrick Payne.
Out of the six-time winner Albacora, the half-siblings were bred by Ardsley Stud’s Jim Wallace with Aljay originally purchased as a weanling for $10,000 at New Zealand Bloodstock’s May Sale by Waterford Bloodstock.
He was then reoffered under the Ardsley banner at the Ready to Run Sale at Karaka where Myers secured him for $39,000.
– NZ Racing Desk