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Khan Hunter delivers Fuller’s Kiwifruit Cup

3 minute read

Tauranga horseman Antony Fuller has been chasing a victory in the Seeka Kiwifruit Cup (2100m) for several years, and his talented stayer Khan Hunter got the job done in style on Saturday at his home course.

KHAN HUNTER winning the SEEKA KIWIFRUIT CUP Picture: Race Images Photo

A son of Mongolian Khan, Khan Hunter earned his breakthrough success in a maiden highweight over 2100m in March 2022, and he has come a long way since that victory highlighted by a standout season this term.

He won a competitive Dunstan Horsefeeds Stayers' Championship Qualifier (2100m) in November, before finishing a narrow second to Trust In You in the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) and fourth in the Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m) through the summer period.

Fuller spelled the six-year-old after he finished 13th in the Gr.2 Auckland Cup (3200m), but brought him back into work with designs on winning Saturday's race, where he flew slightly under the radar rated a $7.80 fourth-favourite.

In the hands of apprentice jockey Maria Sanson who brought his topweight down to 57kg, Khan Hunter bounced the gates and was sent straight to the front, while $2.90 race-favourite Blue Sky At Night sat just worse than midfield in fifth.

Khan Hunter  travelled strongly along the back straight and his lead began to extend at the 800m, opening up the field who began to chase turning for home. The main danger in Blue Sky At Night  loomed up strongly nearing the 300m, but Khan Hunter still had plenty left in the tank as he powered away under little pressure by 3 ¾ lengths.

Fuller, who has twice run fourth in the Kiwifruit Cup with former Auckland Cup winner Roger That, was delighted to pick up the local feature.

"I wanted this race, I've tried to win it for years and I thought I had a horse that could do it, so we'll have a go," he said.

"At the 800m I was thinking he's only had a 1300m sprint since he last raced, and if he had had more racing it wouldn't have worried me, but she (Sanson) knows him. He probably annoyed her around at the start so she thought, take this.

"I looked at the track on Thursday and I couldn't possibly see any advantage to coming out wide, and we haven't had any rain since then. So, all I said to her to her before the race was 'don't go wide'.

"This was the only one we brought him back for, whether or not he races again this winter we'll wait and see. Summer is the aim, but I won't say no and there is the Taumarunui Cup."

Sanson's summer had been restricted by injury which caused her to miss the ride in the Dunstan Qualifier, however she was delighted to reunite with the gelding for their fourth win as a combination in 12 starts.

"His last win when Triston (Moodley) rode him, I had broken my ankle two days prior and missed out on the ride so it's nice to get back on him today and win a race," she said.

"He was just an arrogant prick in the prelim, so I thought bugger you, go to the front and keep going.

"I was travelling really strongly down the back and I know Antony always has his stayers really fit, so I thought if they can catch me they're doing really well.

"My first win on him was on a bottomless heavy track and we thought maybe that was what he was limited too, but he ran second on New Year's Day on a good track so he might be able to go on with it into the spring. The world's his oyster really."

Bred by Debbie and Peter Seebeck, Khan Hunter was initially purchased for $130,000 out of Windsor Park Stud's draft at the 2019 National Yearling Sales at Karaka. His first victory was in the care of Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray, who then sold him via for $9500 to current owners Fuller and Gene and Barb Jacobson.

Saturday's victory saw his stakes earnings near $220,000, with six wins in 37 starts.

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