Easter Cup next for powerful Pembrook Playboy
By Jonny Turner
Pembrook Playboy booked his ticket to some of New Zealand’s biggest Group One races with an explosive win in the Northern Southland Trotting Cup at Ascot Park on Saturday.
The Nathan Williamson trained pacer produced an electric turn of foot to put the result of the Group 3 feature beyond doubt before the home turn in an emphatic display.
Williamson showed exactly what his exciting four-year-old’s brilliant win meant to him when he gave a rare salute as they crossed the line more three lengths in front of his rivals.
“I was proud of the horse today, he stamped his authority as the best down here,” Williamson said.
“And if not the best, one of the best.”
“He beat a top field so I was thrilled with him.”
Pembrook Playboy’s excellent standing start manners crucially landed him in front of his co-backmarkers and key rivals in the early stages of the Northern Southland Cup.
The chances of any of his opposition beating the star pacer took another hit when Williamson found a perfect spot in the one-one for him.
The Northern Southland Cup result was only in doubt for a split second, when U May Cullect and Kirstin Barclay powered up on Pembrook Playboy’s outer, threatening to lock him in to the running line with 500m to run.
“I heard Kirstin coming, but by the time I moved him out she was there,” Williamson said.
“We locked wheels momentarily, it took us a moment to get them unlocked, but once that happened we were both going forward.”
“And thankfully my horse proved too good on the day.”
Williamson’s long term goals for his stable star have included the Harness Jewels, New Zealand Messenger Championship and The Taylor Mile.
Before those four-year-old features, Pembrook Playboy will test himself at Group One level against New Zealand’s best all-age pacers in the Easter Cup.
“I am just deciding what to do with him before the Easter Cup, whether he starts before then.”
“It will just depend on how he comes through this run.”
“I did have thoughts to run him next week in the Winton Cup, but it was quite a testing run today.”
“So, it’s whether racing three weeks in a row is just what he wants or he could trial in a couple of weeks time.”
“The Easter Cup obviously being 3200m against the best of the best, we don’t want to be going up there short.”
Pembrook Playboy equalled the 2700m Ascot Park track record set by U May Cullect in last month’s Riverton Cup when stopping the clock in 3.17.9.
Williamson bagged two of Saturday’s Group 3 features, firstly helping trainer Craig Ferguson produce his first stakes race victory with Nutcracker in the Southern Fillies Classic.
After Williamson controlled the 2200m event in front, the two-year-old reeled off a sharp last 400m to win.
Ferguson was not able to drive his filly or witness his first Group 3 victory as a trainer on Saturday as he was serving as best man at friend Rory McCall’s wedding.
Williamson was denied a clean sweep of Saturday’s Group 3 races when One Apollo held out Dark Horse in the Southern Lights Trot.
One Apollo made a brilliant beginning before driver Gerard O’Reilly took the Brent White trained trotter to the lead where he ran strong sectionals.
“When I have driven him – when he is on his game he does feel good, O’Reilly said.
“Today he trotted away good, which sometimes he can’t, but once he has gone 100m he is usually pretty foolproof.”
“And today he showed he can stay as well.”
One Apollo produced a 3.24.1 time in Saturday’s 2700m feature, to set a new track record for entires and geldings.
The five-year-old’s time was just 0.1sec outside the all-comers’ track record set by Pres The Belle in the same race last year.