First Class spanks ‘em in Kindergarten
By Jonny Turner
It was a case of new horse and new driver, but same result when Spankem’s owners enjoyed back-to-back victories in the Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham on Saturday.
The same group of All Stars owners that enjoyed Flying Even Bettor’s comfortable win for driver Blair Orange last year had even less to worry about this year, when First Class was untested when beating his stablemate, Delightful Dude, to win the 2020 edition.
Driver Tim Williams gave the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained pacer a comfortable run in the lead, which set up his fast 26.4sec last 400m and an easy win in the group 3 feature by three-quarters of a length.
First Class’s backers, who sent him out a $1.80 favourite, had little cause for concern throughout the race and Williams confirmed he had little to stress about during the running, either.
“It worked out good for him, especially with his gate speed, he is a good gaited wee horse,” the reinsman said.
“The race set up for him, really, and the couple of scratchings helped, too.”
First Class’s winning mile (1609m) time of 1.56.6 demonstrated how much Williams controlled the Kindergarten Stakes.
First Class is raced by Gary and Kerry Woodham, Phil and Glenys Kennard, Jim and Ann Gibbs and the Breckon Racing Syndicate.
Their colt came in to Saturday’s feature after running an excellent second to leading 2yr-old Krug in testing conditions in last month’s Sapling Stakes.
The group were then faced with the option of sending First Class to Alexandra Park to take on Krug again, or to stay closer to home and head to the Kindergarten Stakes.
“We had the choice of taking him back to Auckland to race in the Young Guns Final,” Gary Woodham said.
“But he had already had a big trip to Auckland, which he didn’t handle quite well.”
“So, Natalie said he would be far better suited coming down to Wyndham.”
First Class ran a good second to Krug in his first start in Auckland, before galloping in his second start and then being freshened ahead of his Sapling Stakes tilt.
His time out has helped the nuggety pacer strengthen up and put a group 3 victory on his resume.
“The trip away to Auckland helped him,” Woodham said.
“So, we are really happy with him, he has plenty of upside.”
“I think he is strengthening up now, he is well balanced now and he wasn’t well balanced earlier on.”
First Class’s owners have recently sold their 2019 Kindergarten Stakes winner, Flying Even Bettor, who has been exported to the USA.
“We looked at what we’re up against now and he had hit a mark in New Zealand that we thought that that was where he was at,” Woodham said.
“There are a couple of other 3yr-olds that have come up that have just gotten better.”
Moving Flying Even Bettor on has allowed Woodham and his fellow owners to keep investing in young stock in the hope they might produce a third Kindergarten Stakes winner next year.
“We have got three yearlings, two other pacing colts and a trotter and we like them all.”
The group that race First Class have had good news on their reigning New Zealand Horse Of The Year, Spankem, recently.
The All Stars stable reported recently the pacer was progressing well while recovering from a fetlock injury, which ended his season in November.
Woodham, who is a member of the leadership team at the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA), enjoyed more success on Saturday when Cash N Flow won at Menangle for trainer Craig Cross and driver Luke McCarthy.
Cash N Flow is the first horse Woodham and Williams combined with.
Williams took a share in the pacer and developed him while working for trainer Wayne Adams in Southland, before moving to his current job with the All Stars Stable.
The reinsman sold his share before the horse’s career started and Woodham went on to race the horse from the All Stars stable, before he was sent to Sydney.
The owner and driver not only have a harness racing connection, the Woodhams are family friends with the Williams family.
“I have had a great association with Gary and he has been a big supporter of mine,” Williams said.
Saturday’s victory was Williams’ third group 3 victory in Southland in seven days, following his victories with Pres The Belle and Henry Hubert at Ascot Park, last weekend.
The reinsman’s feature race hot streak was not over following First Class’s Kindergarten Stakes win.
Williams gave Triroyale Brigade a perfect run in the trail to help the Nathan Williamson trained pacer take out Saturday’s Wyndham Cup.