Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh registered a notable milestone when he saddled the quinella in the Gr.3 NZ Campus of Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) with Lincoln King and Starrybeel.
Marsh went into the race with a degree of confidence following the midweek scratching of pre-post favourite and last year’s winner Waisake and that confidence proved well-founded.
Seven-year-old gelding Lincoln King, a proven two-mile performer having finished second in the 2020 Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) and fourth behind Mondorani in the 2021 edition of that race, looked the best chance on paper of the two Marsh runners and so it proved.
In the hands of an in-form Craig Grylls, Lincoln King enjoyed a perfect run midfield, but found himself in an awkward position with 800m to run as a number of back-markers looped around him as the field compressed.
Grylls extricated Lincoln King from a tight position and moved him to the outer before unleashing the son of Shocking as he quickly bounded up to the leaders in the straight before forging to the lead.
Stablemate Starrybeel and rider Michael McNab came from well-back to finish second and was forced to weave a passage after a minor bump with Lincoln King, with pacemaker He No Opilio clinging on to third from southern raider Sulu Sea.
Marsh, who has an ownership interest in both runners, was trying to keep his emotions in check as he savoured the result.
“It doesn’t get much better than that and I own a little share in both of them so that helps as well,” he said.
“I thought going out of the straight the first time they were both in a beautiful position, just where we wanted them.
“I could see Michael riding pretty confidently aboard Starrybeel and I got a bit worried about Lincoln King, but it has just turned out terrific.
“Lincoln King has been pretty luckless in two New Zealand Cups, so it is great to see him here and to get that win.
“They have both raced out of their skins and I’m just so pleased for everyone, including my staff as I can see that they have got a huge buzz out of this.
“It’s a big team effort and just great when you can pull it off.”
Marsh will take a little time to assess how the pair recover from their exertions before making any plans, however both horses hold a nomination for the Gr.2 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie in March.
“We’ll get them home and see how they are before we decide what to do next,” he said.
“There is the Auckland Cup to come and Lincoln King has been there and done that (9th in 2021), while Starrybeel looks like a real star stayer on the rise.”
It was the second feature race victory for Grylls on the day having earlier taken out the Gr.3 New Zealand Bloodstock Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) aboard La Crique.
“Steve said to me before the race to try and get him out and keep him a bit handier in the running,” he said.
“After 150m I was a couple of pairs back and I thought this is just beautiful.
“At about the half mile there were a couple that got going and I got shuffled back, but I got him to the outside where he just kept grinding away as a proven two-miler.
“He was made to work for it, but it was definitely worth it.”
Lincoln King, who is raced by a group that includes his breeder, Bill Gleeson under his Wellfield Holdings Ltd banner, is out of the stakes winning Shinko King mare, Shi Kin Fly and has won six races from 31 starts and over $330,000 in prizemoney.