The Northlanders came to town at Tauranga on Saturday and played a starring role, headed by a quinella for Ruakaka trainer Chris Gibbs in the $50,000 Mills Reef Wines Open (2100m).
Cakebytheocean and Chevron were the only two horses that Gibbs took to the Tauranga meeting, and they dominated the feature staying race from the moment the gates opened.
Chevron attempted to lead all the way in the hands of jockey Craig Grylls, but Cakebytheocean and Masa Hashizume crept forward from their trailing position and loomed ominously on his outside coming up to the home turn.
The two stablemates forged clear to fight it out down the home straight, with Cakebytheocean gradually gaining the ascendancy to beat a gallant Chevron by three-quarters of a length. Race favourite Poser finished another two and a half lengths away in third.
Just over half an hour later, Ruakaka had further cause for celebration as the Holly Teesdale-trained Special Privilege took out the $40,000 Super Liquor Greerton (2100m) at double-figure odds.
“To get the quinella with our only two runners on the day was a fantastic result,” Gibbs said. “I told both sets of owners before the race that I was very happy with both horses and literally couldn’t split them – I just did not know. So I’m delighted that they both came out and ran so well.
“It was really good to see another Ruakaka horse come out and win the next race on the card quite impressively as well.
“There’s a fair bit of travelling involved when you’re up where we are, so it’s always really good when the horses show that they can handle that. That’s one thing my old man (Jim Gibbs) and Mr (Dave) O’Sullivan always told me – if your horses are going to be any good, they need to be able to travel.
“Both Cakebytheocean and Chevron travelled down to Matamata yesterday, stayed the night there and came across this morning. I was really happy with how both horses handled that, and it’s just fantastic to get this result.”
Previously a three-time winner between 1400m and 1600m, Cakebytheocean has been something of a revelation over longer distances in recent weeks. The six-year-old Ocean Park gelding stepped up to 2100m for the first time at Ruakaka on August 19 and won impressively, then finished a close and unlucky third over 2200m on September 9.
Raced by Kylie Bax’s I Love Cake Syndicate, Cakebytheocean has now had a total of 19 starts for five wins, six placings and $133,890 in stakes.
“Kylie was a little bit taken aback when I first suggested trying him up over ground, but he’s certainly stepped up and proven himself,” Gibbs said. “He was a bit unlucky last start. I was reasonably confident making the trip down for this race, and he’s done a great job.
“But to be fair to Chevron, I thought on the turn that Cakebytheocean was going to win it by five. He was absolutely trotting. But Chevron kept finding more and more and kept lifting, so the stablemate had to work to get past him. I thought it was a top effort by both horses.”
Gibbs will now consider raising the bar with both horses in the coming weeks.
“They both hold nominations for the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m), so that’s something that we can have a look at,” he said. “You’ve got to be in to win with these sorts of races.
“And there was also just one horse in my stable that I left in the nominations for the Livamol Classic (Gr.1, 2040m), and that was Cakebytheocean. I wanted to see how he went today and then make a decision after that.
“He might not be ideally suited to weight-for-age just yet, and he probably needs a few rating points to make the field for a race like that. He needed to win today in order to hold on to that nomination, and to be fair, he couldn’t really have been more impressive.
“Sometimes it’s worth trying to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. We’ll wait and see.”
The TAB’s market for the New Zealand Cup currently has Cakebytheocean at $31 and Chevron at $41, while Cakebytheocean is rated a $41 chance for the Livamol Classic.