Sparkling Group One trifecta for Cambridge

Dal Cielo (Opie Bosson) drawing clear of the game Battle Time in the Gr. 1 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes. (Photo: Wally O'Hearn)

Dal Cielo (Opie Bosson) drawing clear of the game Battle Time in the Gr. 1 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes. (Photo: Wally O’Hearn)


The Gr. 1 $200,000 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie last Saturday proved a triumph for Cambridge with the first three horses being from the centre.

Dal Cielo, from the powerful stable of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, finally got a decent draw and showed his class when winning by a length and a quarter from the brave Battle Time (prepared by Tim and Margaret Carter) with Stephen Marsh’s Rocanto three-quarters of a length back in third spot.

It marked the third occasion a Cambridge horse has won the feature in the last five years, following on from the Don Sellwood-trained Anabandana in 2011 and Marsh’s top filly Ruud Awakening two years later.

For Baker, it was his second win in the race as in 2008 he produced Fully Fledged to win. And he was delighted to finally see Dal Cielo given a chance to realise his potential.

Dal Cielo had faced wide draws in his first three starts, yet still managed a win at Ellerslie, after a debut second at Riccarton, then a courageous third behind Hardline and Selfie in the Karaka Million on January 25 when starting from barrier 12 in the 13-horse field.

Last Saturday Dal Cielo jumped from barrier five and was perfectly positioned by rider Opie Bosson, tracking the leaders Battle Time and Link Road and being put into the action when it counted. He then extended his stride and collared the determined Battle Time to win like a special horse.

“He’s great to ride. He doesn’t pull or anything and he tries hard,” said Bosson.

Dal Cielo won despite missing three days’ work the previous week after suffering a heel injury and Bosson believes he could have won more decisively had it not been for that setback. “Missing that work started to tell a bit the final stages, but he had it won by then,” he said.

Battle Time was very game in defeat after having to be used up in the early stages to get across to the lead from his outside draw, while Rocanto fought on well for third, but again showed he is better on left-handed tracks than the Ellerslie way round.

Dal Cielo is raced by Lib Petagna and the Homebush Partnership No.5 Syndicate, which is managed by Bruce Perry, who also handles Petagna’s racing interests.

A $95,000 purchase by Perry from last year’s Select session of the National Yearling Sales at Karaka, Dal Cielo is a half-brother to the Gr. 3 Highview Stakes winner Eloa and from the family of Gr. 1 SAJC Schweppes Oaks winners Lights Of Heaven and multiple Group One winner and exciting young sire Alamosa.

Alamosa won the Diamond Stakes in 2007 and went on to win the Gr. 1 Thorndon Mile at Trentham and the Gr. 1 MRC Toorak Handicap. And now his close relative Dal Cielo looks set to be a strong competitor in further Group One events.

But just where that next Group One assignment will be has yet to be confirmed. Dal Cielo holds a nomination for the Gr. 1 $225,000 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes at Awapuni on March 28 as well as the Gr. 1 A$1 million ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes over the same 1400-metre distance at Randwick a week later.

Perry is keen to have a crack at Sydney, knowing a win there would immensely help boost the value of not only Dal Cielo but also his sire, Per Incanto, whom he secured for Little Avondale Stud and is a shareholder.

“But at the end of the day it is Murray’s decision and I’ll be happy to go along with whatever he decides,” said Perry. “He knows what’s best for the horse.”

Baker is leaning the way of the Awapuni feature, though delaying his final decision until later this week.

“You’ve got to be special to win in Sydney,” said Baker. “He’s a very good horse but whether he’s up to it right now I’m not so sure. It’s a mighty big leap up from here.”