Imposing grey galloper Helena Baby returned to his best form when he produced a gritty front-running effort to take out the Listed Powerworx Opunake Cup (1400m) at New Plymouth.
The seven-year-old son of Guillotine made a barnstorming start to his racing career in New Zealand when he put together a five-race winning sequence during the winter of 2019, including victory in the Opunake Cup of that season.
After finishing third to champion mare Melody Belle in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) to close out that campaign the John Bell-trained gelding transferred to Hong Kong where he had a further 14 starts which resulted in a pair of minor placings.
Returned to the care of Bell earlier this year, he has been given a slow build-up with two trials and four race starts before lining up in Saturday’s New Plymouth feature.
Taken straight to the lead by rider Darren Danis, Helena Baby set up a solid speed as he absorbed pressure from Deerfield as the pair duelled out in front.
Danis shot his mount clear rounding the home bend and despite being chased hard by eventual runner-up Cork and third-placed She’s A Maneater, Helena Baby never looked like succumbing as he registered his sixth career victory by two and half lengths at the line.
“With all the effort that has been put into him it was just so pleasing to see him come out and produce like he did today,” Bell said.
“This had been our focus as he was well weighted with 53kgs after carrying around 60kgs for his last two runs.
“His last race at Te Rapa where he ran third really topped him off nicely and I thought he was pretty right for this one.
“We told Darren to make sure he kept handy and to stick to the fence as that has been an advantage all day and he rode him perfectly.”
Bell will now look ahead to the upcoming Hastings Spring Carnival where he has a number of permutations to work through for the three days at Hawke’s Bay.
“He has pulled up brilliantly after the race, so that gives me confidence to look ahead with him,” he said.
“We will be thinking about Hastings and just what races we set him for there.
“He could run in all three Group Ones as I do want to see him take on 2000m during this campaign.
“Whether we go to all three or just to the middle day over 1600m and then the last day over 2040m is what we have to decide.”
The Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) is the feature event on day one of the Carnival at Hawke’s Bay on September 10 followed by the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) on October 1 and the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) on October 15.