Southern flavour to Cup Day continues with Vintage Cheddar
By Jonny Turner
Southland trainer Alister Black enjoyed one of the biggest thrills of his career when Vintage Cheddar powered past his rivals in a hectic running of the Junior Free For All on New Zealand Cup Day.
The six-year-old handed his breeder-owners Lindsay and Ian Thomson consolation for missing out on the New Zealand Cup by just one spot when he outstayed his rivals in the Group 3 feature for driver Brad Williamson.
What the victory meant to Black was clear for all to see when he greeted Vintage Cheddar with a beaming smile when the pacer returned to the winner’s circle.
“That would be right up there with Get Lucky winning the sales race (PGG Yearling Sales Final) race here.”
“To win a race on Cup Day is awesome.”
Vintage Cheddar sealed Black’s first group race victory on the sport’s biggest stage after butting heads with the country’s best pacers in the lead up to the New Zealand Cup.
Though the Southern stayer could not quite break through for placings in races like the New Brighton Cup, Hannon Memorial and Ashburton Flying Stakes, Black was proud of his efforts.
“Because of his rating we have never been able to take the easy option, he has always had to race the best horses,” Black said.
“But he has never given up.”
“He may not have the speed of some of the others, but he has never quit on me.”
“And his turn had to come, to get a speed like that in a big race.”
Vintage Cheddar had to be good to win when stuck at the rear of the field with a lap to go.
Some brilliant manoeuvring from Brad Williamson secured his run through the field as the 2600m feature’s hot speed started to take its toll on some of his rivals.
“They rolled along up front and we were able to come in and come out and have the last shot at them,” Williamson said.
“He did pace roughly around some of the bends, but once we straightened up he was right.”
“He has been going well in the lead-up races to the Cup, he just doesn’t have high speed and he can lose a length or two when they run those really fast quarters.”
Vintage Cheddar’s victory handed brothers Lindsay and Ian Thomson with one of the biggest achievements in their involvement in the sport.
The pair are big supporters of Southern harness racing, racing a stable filled mainly with yearling sales purchases that Black has developed.
But Vintage Cheddar is a little different, having been bred by the Thomsons from their Grinfromeartoear mare Howfarnow.
“It is great for Ian and Lindsay,” Black said.
“They’ve had a bad run with breeding them, but now they have bred an open class horse.”
Vintage Cheddar cleared out to win by a length and three-quarters at the line over On The Cards, who also ran on from the rare.
Outsider That’s Alexander Guy clinched third after racing three-back on the inner.