Sandy Cunningham had hoped Noble Knight would be contesting the two-mile feature on Cup Day last Saturday at Riccarton Park but was delighted to settle for an impressive victory in the Rating 82 2600m event.
New Zealand Cup-winning jockey Sam Weatherley was booked aboard Noble Knight last Saturday and the northern hoop bounced the six-year-old astutely out of barrier three to position midfield and one-off-the-fence.
At the head of the 18-strong field was Good Oil, the ultra-consistent grey controlling a moderate tempo early before Lisa Allpress pushed the button at the 1600m aboard Rivera Rock to take over.
While other backmarkers began to struggle nearing the home turn, Noble Knight cruised into contention near the outer and descended strongly down the straight, drawing away from a brave Good Oil to score comfortably by 1-3/4 lengths.
The son of Ghibellines has been a dependable force in Cunningham’s Prebbleton stable for several seasons, and the victory came as a small consolation in missing their target of the Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) this season.
“Sam rode him the perfect race. It was a very different pattern (to the opening day), he rode him positive out of the gates and did everything right,” Cunningham said.
“We had planned to (run in the Cup) this time, but we had a bit of a hiccup in his prep and that didn’t happen. But we’re getting closer.”
Weatherley was pleased to record another victory during Cup Week, one that ended successfully when he took home the feature Gr.3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m) aboard Mahrajaan later on the card.
“I just had to bounce him (Noble Knight) out and get him mobile, he’s been getting a long way back,” he said.
“It was a bit messy early, it was quite tight with everyone trying to get off the fence and having pressure from the other side.
“He went to sleep mid-race, I was on the back of Opie (Bosson, aboard Fierce Flight) and he wasn’t taking me anywhere, so it was a bit of a search-and-run, but to his credit he was really strong to the line and very willing.”