In-form staying mare Aquacade declared she is the horse to beat in the Gr.2 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) with an emphatic statement as she powered home to take out the Gr.2 ATR Avondale Cup (2400m) at Pukekohe.
The Lance Noble-trained four-year-old started a warm favourite ($2.90) in the race off the back of victories in three of her last four starts and fully justified that support with an authoritative performance.
Regular pilot Warren Kennedy slotted the mare beautifully into a one-off position in midfield after jumping from a wide barrier (13) and was content to lob along quietly as Youledo and Self Obsession set up a steady pace in front.
Kennedy asked his charge to move into contention approaching the home turn and she quickly shot to the lead with 300m to run.
Aquacade kept up a powerful gallop as she cleared out to win by three lengths from the late closing Hinepara, with Lincoln King snatching third off Dionysus in the shadows of the winning post.
Kennedy had nothing but praise for the mare as he looks forward to a date with destiny in the Auckland Cup on March 11.
“It all worked out like a dream and she was magnificent today,” Kennedy said.
“I must give credit to Lance Noble as she looked fantastic, she felt fantastic and she helped me in the race as it is not easy to get across from that wide gate.
“She found the right spot, relaxed nicely and she turned it on from the 600m to power home for a great win.
“At about the 1000m she hit a flat spot but when I asked her she really quickened and put them to bed.
“Bring on the 3200m now.”
Noble was quick to praise both the mare and her rider in the immediate aftermath of the victory.
“That was something a little bit special I thought,” Noble said.
“She won well in lesser company last start and had come on well from that, but to see her do that in a quality field today is just great.
“Warren is just in the zone and he knows the mare. He pre-empts what you tell him as he is that good a jockey.
“We wanted to be positive as she has a bit of tactical speed and he just let it unfold as he got her in the right spot.
“She can go through a flat spot but once through that she is very strong.”
The Avondale Cup was the perfect lead-up to the set weights and penalties Auckland Cup for Aquacade, with the winner exempt from ballot for the Auckland Cup and the race penalty-free heading towards the two-mile feature.
Prior to Saturday’s Group Two victory Aquacade had not won at black-type level, with the progressive mare the winner of six of 12 starts, while boasting a Group Two placing at three.
“She was our Oaks horse last year and ran third in the Royal Stakes (Gr.2, 2000m) and chipped a fetlock, so we had to back off her and she had surgery,” Noble said.
“The extra time has really done her the world of good as a four-year-old.”
Bred and raced by Cambridge Stud couple Brendan and Jo Lindsay, Aquacade is a daughter of Dundeel and out of Forest Of Seas, a three-quarter sister to Gr.1 St Leger (2800m) runner-up The Last Drop.
The couple announced immediately after the race that they would donate the $80,000 first prize purse to the Hawke’s Bay Cyclone Gabrielle relief fund.
TAB Bookmakers quickly reacted to Aquacade’s dominant victory, marking her as the clear $2.20 favourite for the Auckland Cup ahead of Ladies Man ($6).