A downpour of rain at Hastings on Saturday was welcomed by consistent stayer Semper Magico, who skipped through the heavy conditions to continue his red-hot form.
Prepared by Awapuni conditioner Mark Oulaghan, Semper Magico was aiming to add a fourth victory in five starts this season in the Betta Inspect It Premier (2000m) and couldn’t have looked more comfortable, travelling third and one off the fence behind a strong tempo set by front-runner Sagunto.
Eventual runner-up Hit The Road Jack was first to make a mid-race move outside the leader, and apprentice Jess Allen sent Semper Magico forward to track the gelding into the straight, the pair effortlessly striding to the lead at the 250m and scored by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
“He had the three-kilo claim which obviously helped him, but I think when the track deteriorated like that, he handles bad ground fairly well, so it probably gave him a bit of an advantage, but we were certainly happy with the end result” Oulaghan said.
“He was always a good galloper, he could always gallop since he was a young horse, but he was just a bit immature in the mind, and couldn’t quite put it together.
“He was mainly running over 1400m and 1600m earlier on and this is the first preparation we’ve got him out over 2000m and he seems to be handling it pretty well.
“He’s come a fair way in his last four or five starts, he possibly may run at Rotorua in three weeks’ time (Open 2000m) I’m not sure. While he’s maintaining his form we’ll keep him going but he raced a bit during the winter in the sprints so he’s probably getting to the stage where he’ll need a spell soon.”
Oulaghan entrusted Allen with the ride aboard his charge after she guided him to victory at Te Rapa last start, and Semper Magico thrived under the featherlight 52.5kg weight.
“Jess rode him well, she’s only an apprentice but we were pleased with the way she handled him,” he said.
Allen, who is apprenticed to Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson at Te Akau, was thrilled to pick up a winner at Hastings’ Premier meeting, her fourth for the season from just 19 rides.
“It’s pretty cool to win on a premier day, he’s a tough little horse and he didn’t mind the wet track today,” she said.
“He’s been in a really good patch of form lately and he won really impressively last time.”
The Per Incanto eight-year-old brought his career earnings to more than $192,000 for Oulaghan, who races the gelding with wife Penny, and also bred him with mother Pam out of their Group Three-winning mare Semper Fidalis.
“He’s out of a Grosvenor mare who was a good stayer, the Per Incanto’s aren’t renowned for being stayers, but I guess he gets it from his mother’s side,” Oulaghan said.
Oulaghan has enjoyed a strong start to the new season with seven winners including the Grand National Hurdle/Steeplechase double with Berry The Cash and West Coast, the latter also securing the Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m) a fortnight ago.
He will see out the 2023/23 Jumps Season with three runners at the rescheduled Woodville meeting on Thursday, with Super Flash, Tweedledee and Super Spirit all to be piloted by stable member Portia Matthews.
Oulaghan believes seven-year-old Super Flash is a good chance in a compact six-horse field in the Marty and Di Catering Maiden Hurdle (3000m), coming off a strong third on the flat last start at Awapuni.
“He’s had one hurdle run, he went fair but he had to find his way around a bit so hopefully that’s brought his jumping on a fraction,” he said.
“He’s had a flat run in the meantime, which was good. I think he’s pretty fit so if he jumps okay I think he’ll be a real show in that race.”
Proven hurdler Tweedledee will take his place in the Tararua Hedge Cutting LTD Open Hurdle (3000m), while Super Spirit will contest a competitive Ellen & David Oliver Open Steeplechase (4000m) later in the card.
“He (Tweedledee) likes better ground, he’s not a real heavy tracker but we’ll probably run him anyway and hopefully the track would’ve dried out a bit by Thursday,” Oulaghan said.
“Super Spirit’s a maiden chaser and they have them all together so it’ll probably be a bit hard for him, he’ll probably go around with the idea that it’ll be his third steeplechase run to get a bit of experience into him, and that should set him up for next year.
“We aren’t really expecting a winning run from him in an Open chase at this stage.”
Star jumpers West Coast and Berry The Cash have both been sent out for a break following their successful campaigns over the fences, however, Oulaghan was hopeful the latter could’ve had a run in the Road To The Jericho (3210m) prior to his spell but failed to make the final field.
“They pulled up pretty well, West Coast is good and we were hoping to take Berry The Cash to the two-mile race at New Plymouth (Road To The Jericho) but he got balloted out which was a bit disappointing, I thought he had better form than some that were there but that’s the way it goes,” Oulaghan said.
“I think it would’ve been good to try him over two miles and I think it would’ve really suited him, but we’ve been pretty pleased with his jumping efforts this year already.”