3 minute read
In a race thrown into disarray by a false start, quality four-year-old Desert Lightning stood tall and claimed his first Group One victory in Saturday’s TAB Classic (1600m) at Trentham.
The enduring story out of the $400,000 weight-for-age feature will be the auxiliary gates failing to open and the horses with the three widest draws – Faraglioni, Desert Lightning and Aegon – being left behind. Fortunately the remainder of the field all pulled up before the end of the back straight, but when the race was re-run several minutes later, those three horses all finished in the top four.
That result indicates that it was clearly an advantage to have avoided the exertion of the aborted first running of the race, but dwelling on that would be doing a disservice to Desert Lightning. He was one of the standout male three-year-olds of last season, winning the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) and placing in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), the Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) and a star-studded running of the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).
The son of Pride Of Dubai has come back strongly as a spring four-year-old, winning first-up at Pukekohe before finishing third on heavy ground at Tauranga. He stepped up on to the big weight-for-age stage on Saturday and showed that he belonged.
Rider Vinnie Colgan had to use up some petrol after Desert Lightning eventually left that wide gate, pushing forward to take up a position outside the front-running Town Cryer.
Desert Lightning swept past Town Cryer soon after rounding the home turn, and he was all alone in front down the long Trentham straight. Faraglioni, Malt Time and Aegon came at him with powerful late finishes, but Desert Lightning kept finding and held them all out to win by a length.
"It was unfortunate that we had the false start, and I imagine some of the other horses have tired legs now," Colgan said. "But full credit to my horse. We had an awkward gate and I had to use him up early. He got off the nickel a little bit at the 600m and I was a little worried, but then he came back up underneath me again and made me feel a lot better.
"He's a very good horse and was strong right to the line. I think if something else had got to him a bit earlier in the straight, it would have actually helped him. It's pretty windy today and I was out in front all by myself, and he did start to lug the last little bit. But every time he felt the presence of a horse coming, he lifted again. He's a very good horse."
Desert Lightning is trained by Peter and Dawn Williams, who saddled Shuka for back-to-back wins in this race in 2013 and 2014.
The Byerley Park-based couple bought Desert Lightning for $150,000 from the Little Avondale Stud draft in Book 1 of Karaka 2021. He is raced by the Williams team's long-time clients, Sarah Green and Ger Beemsterboer's Barneswood Farm.
From 15 starts, Desert Lightning has now recorded four wins and five placings and earned $584,895 in stakes.
"That was quite exciting, really," Peter Williams said. "I was a nervous wreck after the false start, but fortunately he stayed very settled at the barrier. People might say that it was an advantage that he didn't get away in the false start, but a lot can go wrong when the gates don't open too – they can hit their heads and things like that. So there are factors for and against.
"The owners are here today, so this is a great result. We'll go home now and play it by ear in terms of the rest of his campaign."
Faraglioni ran second, a nose in front of Malt Time, with Aegon flashing home from last to be close up in fourth.
Malt Time's trainers Shaun and Emma Clotworthy were proud of the seven-year-old's effort, being the only horse who took part in the first take of the TAB Classic to end up in a top-four position in take two.
"We're really happy," Emma Clotworthy said. "She seems to just keep getting better with age, and she showed how tough she is today – especially with that false start.
"She's run huge races in a couple of Group Ones over 1600m now, and she was hard to pull up after the line, so maybe we could even look at further. But she's pulled up well and we're really happy. I think she'll go home and have a good break now, and then we'll regather and go from there."