A varied training regime is proving the perfect formula for in-form galloper Encierro who continued his rich vein of form when successful in the Nationwide Livestock Mile (1600m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
The Stephen Marsh-trained five-year-old has been rehabilitated from a serious tendon injury which he suffered after one start. He posted his fifth win from 14 career starts in a strong open handicap on Saturday.
Ridden by Sam Weatherley, the son of El Roca tracked the leaders throughout and despite having to wait for a gap mid-stretch dashed away from stakes winners Germanicus, Paisley Park and Hinepara to win by a length and a half under a hold.
“He did everything right yesterday,” Marsh said. “He can be a bit wayward in his races but yesterday he settled well and though it was hard to find a gap when he finally got out, he stretched out and didn’t want to do anything wrong. It was a very impressive win alright.”
Encierro has won three of his past four starts, all at Te Rapa, and Marsh is deriving plenty of satisfaction from seeing the gelding reach his potential.
“It was quite a bad tendon injury. It was pretty much a retirement job, but we gave him plenty of time,” Marsh said. “He now just swims every day. He has probably only had a saddle on his back twice in the last three months beyond racedays and he does a lot of treadmill work.”
Te Rapa and Hastings have been the locations for Encierro’s past 12 starts, with consistency the key.
“I just wanted him to stick to the one direction (anti-clockwise) given he is a tendon horse so that we are not going left and right-handed all the time,” Marsh said.
“He seems to love Te Rapa and there is always a perfect race for him there. He has been the easiest horse to programme because there is always a good race there for him. He loves the track and it can be a bit of a horses for courses venue but it suits him.”
As fortune would have it, Te Rapa will also be the venue for Encierro’s next outing, the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) on New Year’s Day.
“We were looking at the Taupo Cup, which is a $70,000 race but the way he won yesterday and given the Rich Hill Mile is a handicap and he should get in well at the weights, you really have to have a crack,” Marsh said.
Meanwhile, the Cambridge horseman was pleased to finally get some black-type with well-bred mare Oseleta, who finished third in the Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Trentham on Saturday won by Darci La Bella.
“We have been desperately trying to get black-type and she hasn’t had a lot of luck,” Marsh said.
“She was beaten a nose for third at her previous start and I thought yesterday she travelled beautifully, even though she was back. It was probably the best I have seen her hit out and attack the line for a wee while. It looks like she is going to potentially get a mile now, which is good so we will just try and get as much black-type as we can.”
Marsh said the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) shaped as the right long-term target for the five-year-old daughter of Deep Field, who prefers ease in the ground.
“She will only run in stakes races from here in and we will be watching the weather with her,” he said.
Marsh proved he had several strings to his bow at Te Rapa on Saturday where his duties extended to judging the Fashions in the Field contest.
Trackside TV cameras broadcast the debonair trainer in full fashionista-mode and he was quick to receive plenty of feedback from his industry contemporaries.
“I had my phone on silent and then I turned my phone on and was getting bombarded with texts and videos. People loved it and I copped plenty,” Marsh said.
“It was sponsored by Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre and Greg Quinn, the main surgeon there, asked me a few weeks ago if I would present the awards and I said I’d be honoured.
“There was a very good line up of well-dressed ladies. The men’s department was a bit rough around the edges and a bit smaller but there were a lot of very good keen ladies,” Marsh said.