Expat New Zealand trainer John Sargent says his secret to training stayers is fairly simple: get the right horse, and a lot of long, slow work.
Now based in Sydney, Sargent added to his fine record with long distance horses with two major victories in Australia at the weekend: the Listed Sandown Cup (3200m) with Gin Martini on Saturday, and the Jericho Cup (4652m) at Warrnambool with Bastida a day later.
Sargent’s record with stayers prior to this weekend include two Wellington Cups, a New Zealand Cup, and and Oaks victories on both sides of the Tasman.
He attributes his record to the education he got while working in Britain, and the way he sources horses – sometimes by necessity.
“I did five years in Newmarket and learned a lot about staying training. It showed me how much more long, slow work you can give them – we don’t have the same facilities but you can still do a lot of that type of work around the track,” Sargent said.
“That type of long slow work, along with a lot of walking and swimming, is especially good for getting these horses out to two miles and even 4652m.
“The other main reason is what I buy at the sales. I can’t afford the two-year-olds and sprinters, hence I go to New Zealand and I buy the staying fillies in particular, along with some colts.”
Bastida, who led home a New Zealand-bred trifecta in the Jericho Cup, beating home Botti and Epizeel, was bought by Sargent on gavelhouse.com for $41,000 from Hawke’s Bay breeder Mick Ormond, who stayed in the horse after he was sent to Australia.
“I trained Bastida’s mother Sirani and won a few races with her, and I was delighted to be able to get him. It’s that good Black Mamba family,” Sargent said.
“Mick Ormond’s great grandfather’s brother fought in World War I so it was quite a poignant thing that he wanted to come over and watch the race.
“The Jericho’s a great race to win and it’s gaining traction every year.”
Sargent said Bastida should prove to be capable of performing at more standard staying distances and wouldn’t need 4600m to be competitive.
He was also very happy with the effort of Gin Martini, especially given it was her first race at Caulfield.
“I thought she’d stay the distance, but it’s very hard to win at Caulfield without having a gallop there,” Sargent said.
“It’s quite a tricky track and she didn’t handle the bend into the straight both times. Craig Williams (jockey) said he always thought she’d win the race, it was just a case of getting her balanced.”
Sargent said Gin Martini may head back to Sydney to contest the Listed Christmas Cup (2400m) on December 10 prior to having a break, while Bastida would be turned out following the Jericho Cup.
The pair may find their paths crossing later in the season as they could both head towards the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) at Flemington in May, a race in which the winner gains an automatic entry to the 2023 Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
“It’s worth a go because a lot of horses just don’t run two miles, and we know she does,” Sargent said.
“The Adelaide Cup is another potential option – it’s two miles and just below the top tier.”
Sargent said he was very happy with the team he had and was looking forward to spring. He has a lot of time for Perfect Thought, winner of the Gr.3 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on October 29, while he said his filly So Dazzling, a $200,000 buy from the Beaufort Downs draft at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale last year, was a definite contender for the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) in autumn.
“She was going very well but had a heart fibrillation in the Wakeful Stakes. She’s recovered from that and you’ll see a different filly in the Australian Oaks.”
Sargent said he was a huge fan of the New Zealand thoroughbred and that he expected to be active at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale early next year.