McGrath not panicking with Classie Brigade


Nigel McGrath admits to being somewhat mystified by the form of Classie Brigade this time in but he hasn’t pushed the panic button just yet.

The second-fastest 3200m horse in the country after winning the Invercargill Cup last year in 3.53.5, a time only bettered by Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup (3.53.1) a couple of months earlier, Classie Brigade was being set for the New Zealand Cup a year ago when a mystery ailment eventually forced McGrath to give him a long spell.

The now six-year-old had three trials to set him for an Auckland campaign aimed at the Uncut Gems in June and while he won a four-horse race when resuming, his form deteriorated in two subsequent races and he just battled off a good run when fourth behind Thefixer at Addington last week.

Had Classie Brigade returned to his best in Auckland, McGrath was contemplating a Queensland campaign, but that idea was quickly set aside.

McGrath was not too disappointed with Classie Brigade last week, but he will be hoping for significant improvement this week in the Allied Security Maurice Holmes Vase, where the winner is guaranteed a start in the New Zealand Cup.

“I was disappointed with him in Auckland after he came back from the spell 100 percent sound,” said McGrath.

“But I hadn’t done much with him since then and he didn’t have a trial going into last week’s race, where he basically raced like a horse that was a run short.

“Blair (driver Orange) said he felt terrific on the bend and he just blew out.

“He looks great in the coat and his work is good so overall I’m okay with him at this point, but we’ll see what unfolds over the next 2-3 weeks and reassess things then.

“Although we really need horses like him here, maybe his future lies overseas, but that’s not something I’ve had a chat to the owners about just yet.”

One of those owners in Grant Eynon is travelling down to Christchurch this week, although that’s mostly about Gran Chico, the Bettor’s Delight three-year-old who will be very tough to beat in the maiden pace half an hour prior to the Vase.

Gran Chico was sent out the favourite in his debut at Addington a fortnight ago and was a fast finishing second, beaten half a neck by the pacemaker Global Domination, in what was just a sprint home in 27.7.

“He made good ground there and was timed his last furlong in 12 so he’s a quite promising horse.”

McGrath also lines up Goodlookin Chick in a tough R59-90 mobile at Addington, which will further her preparation for the upcoming grass track racing.

Classie Brigade was just unlucky to run into Lazarus as a three-year-old and chased him home in the New Zealand Derby, and McGrath knows he has a genuine two-miler as he heads towards this year’s Cup.

But at this point neither Classie Brigade or his other Cup contender Sheriff, who won a thrilling NZ Derby in an all-age record 3.05.4 this year, are looking certainties to make it to the post.

Sheriff is being set for a return in the Ashburton Flying Stakes with his campaign very much dependant on whether he can adapt to standing starts.

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