IN Racing
Pukekohe feature a possibility for Desert Lightning
Quality three-year-old Desert Lightning may be given another chance to add to his three-year-old record after finishing runner-up in the Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni on Saturday.
NZ Racing Desk | April 03, 2023
Photo: Trish Dunell

Quality three-year-old Desert Lightning may be given another chance to add to his three-year-old record after finishing runner-up in the Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni on Saturday.

It was another bold effort by the Pride Of Dubai gelding, one of the better three-year-olds in what has proven to be a deep crop.

He managed to eke out victory in the Gr.2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) but otherwise has had to settle for second in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), third in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), and fourth in the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial (1400m).

Trainers Peter and Dawn Williams had been eyeing the Gr.3 Frank Packer Plate (2000m) at Randwick with the gelding, and although that is now off the cards, the couple haven’t ruled out a crack at the Gr.3 Trelawney Stud Championship Stakes (2100m) at Pukekohe on April 22.

“I’m going to have a look at him over the week and see how he’s going after the race at Awapuni,” Peter Williams said.

“We have talked about putting him out, but we want to see how he is first. I don’t want to say he’s definitely going out or definitely not.”

Williams was happy with Desert Lightning’s effort at Awapuni but said the horse beat himself after getting to the front at the top of the straight.

“He got to the front and started stargazing,” Williams said.

“The third horse (Cheval D’Or) caught him and he fought back to beat her, but the winner got the last run at him.

“He’s just a green bugger who’s taking time to learn. At the end of the day he’s going good races, and I felt he had his chance to win.”

Though Desert Lightning was unable to win, the stable did pick up victories in the last two races at Avondale. Saint Alice was a decisive winner of a Rating 88 2100m handicap, while Verstappen fought back after being headed to win a Rating 65 event over 2200m.

Williams said Saint Alice, who was fourth in the Listed Kaimai Stakes (2000m) on February 23, would likely get another chance at black type in the weight-for-age Gr.3 Martin Collins Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m) at Awapuni on April 14.

“She hasn’t done much left-handed racing so she’s got to learn to do that, but the race is the right time and distance for her and she can handle all tracks,” Williams said.

“Verstappen we have always had time for and she showed some of that ability on Saturday, but we’ll just potter away with her at the moment.”

The team will also have another go at the highest level domestically this weekend when Cool Change contests the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe.

Cool Change has been in very solid form, finishing third two starts back in the Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m) at Matamata in February before winning the Royal Descent Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe on March 11.

“She’s very well and done everything right since she last raced. It’s on our back door and she’s in good form so anything can happen,” Williams said.

The stable will have two runners by Savabeel at Tauranga on Wednesday, with The Instigator in a Maiden three-year-old 1600m race, and Helsinki in a Rating 65 1600m event.

The Instigator should be well supported after putting up his best effort to date at his last start when second in another maiden 1600m race at Pukekohe on March 22.

“He’s a big 17-hand gelding who I like, but he’s going to be much better as a four-year-old. He’s starting to come to it,” Williams said.

Helsinki has been out of form in four starts since finishing second at the New Zealand Cup carnival at Riccarton in November and Williams said he didn’t have great expectations.

“She’s got to have a firm track, so hopefully on Wednesday it will be alright,” Williams said.

Cheval D’Or Cool Change Desert Lightning Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas Gr.2 AJC Avondale Guineas Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Gr.3 Frank Packer Plate Gr.3 Manawatu Classic Gr.3 Trelawney Stud Championship Stakes Helsinki Karaka Million 3YO Classic Peter and Dawn Williams Pride Of Dubai Pukekohe Saint Alice