Undefeated three-year-old Crocetti confirmed his superstar quality with another scintillating performance in Saturday’s Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai 51st New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
It was the sixth win of a spectacular six-start career for the super-talented chestnut, who became only the third horse to ever win the 2000 Guineas with an unbeaten record. Sacred Falls also recorded his sixth win in succession in the 2012 edition of the race, while Aegon took his record to three-from-three with his Guineas victory in 2020.
Crocetti has stood head and shoulders above his age group throughout the season. He began his three-year-old campaign with a pair of jaw-dropping Ruakaka wins by a combined margin of nine lengths, including the Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).
Another two superb successes at Te Rapa followed, sweeping aside the likes of subsequent Gr.2 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) winner Impendabelle and the previously undefeated Lupo Solitario and collecting his second stakes win in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m).
But the 2000 Guineas was the one that trainers Danny Walker and Arron Tata and owner-breeder Daniel Nakhle wanted the most. Crocetti’s entire spring had been sculpted around the prestigious Christchurch classic, and on Saturday it all came together.
After Crocetti had shown such brilliance and dominance over 1100m, 1200m and 1400m, the only possible question mark around his Guineas credentials surrounded the step up to 1600m at Riccarton. But the Zacinto gelding emphatically put those doubts to rest.
The $1.40 favourite exploded out of the starting gates and held a clear lead within the first few strides, but jockey Warren Kennedy was happy to sit back and let Balzano and Talisker take up the two leading positions.
Crocetti was breathing down the necks of that pair coming up to the home straight, and then Kennedy released the brakes and he bounded past them at the 300m mark.
Talisker fought back bravely on the inside and joined Crocetti in moving more than four lengths clear of the rest of the field, but there would be no stopping the season’s benchmark three-year-old. Crocetti slowly but surely edged ahead of his gallant rival, crossing the finish line half a length in front.
“He’s a real professional,” Kennedy said. “He knows what we want from him and when it’s race time.
“He came through the parade ring really cruisy and went down to the start totally relaxed. I took him past the gates to show him that back stretch, where he was going to be heading. He just had a look and cruised around.
“He jumped out really well. The pace was on and he took a bit of time to come back to me and drop the bit, but jeez, he’s just a real horse. At the top of the straight, he just ran past them and I hadn’t even asked him for an effort yet.
“He gets to the front and then just cruises and waits for a challenge to come. He might have won by less than a length today, but if something challenges him, they’re not going to get past him.
“He could be right up there with some of the better horses I’ve ridden. He’s still got a bit to prove, but he’s done absolutely nothing wrong so far. Six from six – he’s just a wonderful horse. A big well done to Daniel, Danny and Arron. This is lovely for them. They’re great people who all deserve a Group One, and I’m happy I was able to ride him for them.”
The first Group One winner for Nakhle and the Walker-Tata training partnership, Crocetti has banked more than $543,000 in prize-money.
“It’s true elation,” an emotional Nakhle said. “This horse has never let us down. He’s made us very proud.
“Warren is a magician, and he’s a great mate as well, which makes this even more special.
“The nerves are a bit frayed, but I think we can safely tuck him in the paddock now. Those nerves are behind us now, for the next few months anyway.”
Tata was full of admiration for the stable star.
“He’s a superstar, isn’t he,” he said. “There was that little concern about the 1600m, but I’d ridden him during the week and his last couple of gallops were sensational. We knew he was in a good space.
“It’s unbelievable to have a horse like this. It hasn’t sunk in yet.
“Danny and I have worked really well together for 23 years now, so he’s definitely been a big part of me getting here, and it’s great to share this with him.”
Crocetti stopped the clock at 1:34.59, which is the fastest 2000 Guineas since another son of Zacinto, Ugo Foscolo, clocked 1:33.81 in 2016.
Runner-up Talisker lost little in defeat. The son of young Cambridge Stud stallion Embellish – who himself won this race in 2017 – took a big step up in class from his recent victories in lower grades and rose to the occasion in style.
The third-placed To Catch A Thief is still a maiden after nine starts, but the son of U S Navy Flag has placed in eight of those races including three Group Ones. He finished third in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) and Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) as a two-year-old.