Enigmatic galloper Leaderboard put his best foot forward when he responded to a brilliant ride from visiting Irish jockey Joe Doyle to take out the Gr.3 NZ Campus Of Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m).
The Mark Walker-trained son of Street Cry has always looked a progressive stayer for owners the Fortuna Leaderboard Syndicate, including finishing third in the 2021 Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m), but had also disappointed on occasions when troubled with a series of niggles including some foot issues.
A disappointing lead-up run in the Listed Marton Cup (220m) earlier in the month saw punters let him start at better than $50 on Saturday, but he defied those odds to post his seventh career victory with a stunning win.
Doyle had the eight-year-old trucking along nicely in midfield as pacemaker Contemplation set up a steady speed several lengths away from the inside fence throughout.
Riders pushed their mounts wider approaching the home turn with Doyle sending his charge on a scouting run that saw him strike the lead one-off the outside running rail at the top of the straight.
Doyle and Leaderboard went for gold and established a winning break, as Contemplation fought back doggedly to reduce the margin to a length at the line, with stablemate and topweight Dionysus battling gamely into third.
Te Akau Racing assistant trainer Sam Bergerson had an inkling his representative would run well after some solid trackwork during the week along with the prospect of testing underfoot conditions.
“Mark had got him really fit and we knew the rain was always going to help him,” Bergerson said.
“Joe got him into a lovely rhythm and after he galloped him at Matamata on Wednesday he said the horse was as fit as a fiddle.
“We were quietly confident but you never know with him as he can throw in a shocker at times.
“He has had a bit of trouble with his feet and other little things, so to get him right for today and get a result like this is huge.”
Bergerson also paid tribute to Fortuna Racing Syndicates boss John Galvin, who put the group together to race the horse after he joined the Te Akau Racing set up as a tried Godolphin horse from Europe in 2019.
“He (John) has been a massive supporter of our stable for a long time,” he said.
“He has had a lot of good horses with us and it is great to get a result like this for him in such an iconic race.”
Doyle, who only joined the New Zealand riding ranks in November last year, was thrilled with the victory which gave him his second stakes win since moving here from his native County Tipperary.
“He felt great during the week and we knew we needed the rain to come and thankfully it did,” he said.
“He travelled beautifully and we didn’t go a mad gallop, just even and he just kept fighting up to the line.
“These are definitely the horses you want to ride and it feels good to be riding for such good people.
“I’m very grateful to the people in New Zealand for how they have looked after me, I’m very fortunate and very grateful.”
Successful over 2400m in the UK before being brought to New Zealand Leaderboard has now won a further six times to take his career earnings beyond the $340,000 mark.