Another Auckland Cup memory to treasure

Trent Busuttin relived the Auckland Cup excitement of 21 years ago when Sangster strolled away with the $500,000 Ellerslie feature today.

It was back in 1992 that Busuttin, as a proud young boy, led his father Paddy’s horse, Castletown, back to scale after Noel Harris had guided him to a courageous win in the Auckland Cup.

Castletown, or “Mac” as he was affectionally known, was a legend in the Busuttin stable, winning three Wellington Cups, the NZ Derby, plus Australian features.

Now 21 years later, Trent Busuttin is the proud trainer of his own Auckland Cup winner, Sangster, who registered the easiest of his three Group One wins when taking the Barfoot and Thompson Auckland Cup. Sangster scored by two and a quarter lengths from another Cambridge galloper, El Soldadoi, who ran on determinedly to give his owner and trainer Phillip Devcich, his biggest thrill in racing.

Amid the excitement after the race Busuttin, who trains in partnership with his fiancée Natalie Young, was asked to compare Sangster with Castletown. It was a comparison he didn’t want to really make.

“This horse has still got a long way to go to be up there with Castletown,” said Busuttin. “Castletown won seven Group Ones, Aussie races like the Caulfield Stakes, and he was third in a Melbourne Cup with 58kg and second in two Sydney Cups with 59. He was a great old horse.

“I’d like to think Sangster could win as many Group Ones, too, and get up there with Castletown. He’s got it all ahead of him.”
Sangster was the shortest-priced Auckland Cup for many years and he simply dominated the opposition, thanks to a lovely run gained by Opie Bosson.

Bosson bounced him out first, settled him into the trail, and a long way from home it was obvious he was going to win. The ease of the victory was reminiscent of the 1981 win of the Don Sellwood-trained and Chris McNab-ridden Drum.

“He was going that good at the 600 he was getting on the heels of the horse in front,” said Bosson. “When I let the brakes off, he just took off. I only gave him one backhander with the stick (whip). I could have won it without even using the stick. He was way too good.”

It was the third Auckland Cup win for Bosson following on from Jezabeel in 1998 (when he was still a young apprentice) and Titch in 2011. And Bosson was quick to pay tribute to Busuttin and Young. “They’ve done an amazing job with this horse,” said Bosson. “He felt great and he looked great. He was ready for it.”

Busuttin says the Auckland Cup preparation worked out like a dream, with no hiccups. But he did feel a bit of pre-race pressure saddling up the horse who everyone expected to win.

Sangster has now provided Busuttin and Young with notable Group Ones on either side of the Tasman. He gave them their first major thrill when winning the VRC Derby and Busuttin always had faith he would come back from that Melbourne feature to go on to more major success.

Sangster notched his second Group One win in the Darci Brahma International Stakes at Te Rapa, then stamped himself as the dominant favourite for the Auckland Cup when racing away with the Group II Cardinal Logistics Avondale Cup under 59kg.

Sangster dropped to 54.5kg today and Bosson had to waste to make the weight. “I did it easily in the end and it was worth it,” said Bosson. “I’ve got to ride the weight again on Saturday on Ruud Awakening and hopefully I can get another Group One win.”

When the celebrations of Sangster’s Auckland Cup win dies down, Busuttin will focus on the next major mission for the son of Savabeel.

“We could look at the BMW in Sydney and there’s also Singapore and Hong Kong,” he said. “Melbourne (Cup) is the dream, but whether he’s up to it is another thing. It’s a hard race to win and he had to really put them away like he did today to even entertain the thought. We’ll just let the dust settle before making any decisions.”