El Soldado ready for another Auckland Cup

El Soldado (Sam Collett) holding on bravely to beat the grey Megablash in today's Go Racing Syndications Avondale Cup.

El Soldado (Sam Collett) holding on bravely to beat the grey Megablash in today’s Go Racing Syndications Avondale Cup.

There’s still plenty of fight in the old dog.

El Soldado may be 10 years old, but he’s still up to giving his rivals a galloping lesson, as was the case at Ellerslie today when he bowled along in front to take the Gr.2 $100,000 Go Racing Syndications Avondale Cup.

It was reminiscent of his successful performance in last year’s Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup, which he won at odds of 124/1 in the hands of Darryl Bradley.

The Cambridge stayer started at odds of 68/1 in today’s 2400-metre feature and was rated nicely in front by Sam Collett, bowling along sweetly and seemingly enjoying his work.

Travelling well in the trail coming to the home turn was Megablast and he looked a distinct threat to El Soldado halfway down the home straight, but Phillip Devcich’s pride-and-joy refused to give in and kept up a strong gallop to the line.

Megablast closed on El Soldado in the final stages, but the latter held him at bay to win by a neck, while last year’s Wellington Cup winner Mister Impatience fought on for third.

“That’s amazing,” said Devcich. “He kept going and that’s the way he runs.”

It was El Soldado’s eighth win and first success since upsetting in last year’s Auckland Cup. And, more importantly, it proved he is on the right track to defend his Auckland Cup trophy.

Devcich had bided his time with El Soldado since his memorable Ellerslie win, giving him five runs this campaign, but he plans to give him another outing to have him spot on for the Auckland Cup on March 11.

“In the last couple of weeks he’s improved, but I want to give him one more run before the Auckland Cup,” said Devcich. “It’ll either be at Matamata next Saturday or in the Nathans the week before the Cup.”

El Soldado has competed in four Auckland Cups and on three of the occasions he used a run at Matamata as a final lead-up to the 3200-metre feature.

He ran second to Sangster in the 2013 Auckland Cup after finishing seventh in the Avondale Cup then fourth in the Listed Marks Ewen & Associates Kaimai Stakes at Matamata. And a year later he was 10th in Who Shot The Barman’s Auckland Cup after again using the Avondale Cup (11th) and Kaimai Stakes (sixth) as lead-ups.

In 2015 he went straight from finishing fourth to Farm Boy in the Avondale Cup to run fifth to Rock Diva in the Auckland Cup, while last year he missed the Avondale Cup and ran ninth in the Kaimai Stakes before beating Rose Of Virginia in the Auckland Cup.