McCullum hits them for six

McCullum (Zy Nor Azman) maintaining his unbeaten record when beating the favourite Art Deco at New Plymouth yesterday.

McCullum (Zy Nor Azman) maintaining his unbeaten record when beating the favourite Art Deco at New Plymouth yesterday.

Cambridge galloper McCullum showed a glimpse of his namesake when he back at his rivals on the racetrack at New Plymouth yesterday.

Named in honour of Brendon McCullum (one of New Zealand’s greatest cricketers), McCullum had been unbeaten in his three public appearances — two trials and his raceday debut, and in the latter event at Tauranga early this month he got home as favourite by a length with a slipped saddle.

He went into yesterday’s event as the third favourite and when the favourite Art Deco charged at him over the final stages supporters of the hotpot were feeling pleased with themselves.

However, rider Zy Nor Azman knew he had a bit more up his sleeve and when he asked McCullum to respond the promising galloper did so in the fashion of the fightbacks his namesake showed on the cricket pitch, kicking back strongly to win by a half-length.

There was a gap of a length and a quarter to third-placed, Jacqui Ickx (prepared by Anne Herbert). Another Cambridge runner, Animator, was fourth.

Trained by Ralph Manning, McCullum was ridden positively by Nor Azman, bouncing out and working up to track the leader Jacqui Ickx before ambling up alongside nearing the home turn. And the manner in which he went to the line suggests there is much more in store for the untapped galloper.

“He’s a very talented horse,” said Nor Azman. “He always knows what to do and just jumps and runs.”

McCullum may be inexperienced but he knows what to do when he spots a gap, as he showed when being unsaddled after the race.

Part-owner and co-breeder, former successful jockey Gavin McKeon, greeted his charge in the number one stall and was giving him a pat as Nor Azman was unsaddling when McCullum spotted the narrow opening to the enclosed area and dived through it, not only sending his strapper and McKeon sprawling but the Trackside camera crew and staff scattering.

He was able to be restrained by the strapper and the unsaddling process was completed without any further hiccups.

Manning has had his share of top horses over the years, headed by the McKeon-ridden Seachange, and he should be excited over the potential shown by McCullum.

A series of problems kept McCullum from the racetrack after winning his first trial 20 months ago and now he is making up for lost time.

The patience shown by Manning and McKeon and his partners, wife Emma, father-in-law David Read, and friend Steve Cross, is being rewarded. And so it the good work put into him by Nor Azman and the Manning staff.