Surely Sacred on target for another Ellerslie Classic

A good draw will make Surely Sacred (pictured winning at Ellerslie) very hard to beat in the Gr.1 Vodafone NZ Derby on Saturday.

Exciting Cambridge three-year-old Surely Scared is favoured to add a third Auckland Classic scalp to his CV when he lines-up in the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

The Tony Pike-trained gelding, who is raced by Raffles Racing, has won three of his five starts, including the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) and Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) on the Auckland track where he has also finished runner-up in the Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) and fifth in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

“He’s a pretty exciting racehorse,” Raffles Farm Manager Bruce Sherwin said.

“He’s still on his first racing preparation, so he has achieved a lot and anything on Saturday is going to be a bonus.

“In the two Guineas, he showed a really good turn of foot, particularly the first one, the Auckland Guineas, where the race wasn’t run at a solid tempo. To be able to quicken off a slow speed is a great asset moving forward.

“In the Avondale Guineas he showed a great turn of foot to put himself into the race, maybe a touch early, and he kept up a strong gallop to the line. There are a lot of positives there.”

While Surely Sacred finished fifth behind Long Leaf in the Karaka Million, Sherwin said he was still pleased with his performance.

“The Karaka Million didn’t go quite to plan,” he said. “He ended up in an awkward place, pocketed back on the inside and got clear with no momentum too late so the run was still very good in hindsight.”

With a solid form line there has been plenty of interest in Surely Scared, however, Sherwin said no offers will be considered until after Saturday’s race.

“There has been interest from Hong Kong and as a gelding the offers are becoming quite tempting,” he said. “But we have put everything on hold until after Saturday.”

Sherwin said he has received positive reports from trainer Tony Pike since his victory in the Avondale Guineas earlier this month, but believes his charge will have some strong opposition in Saturday’s contest despite TAB bookmakers marking him as a $3 early favourite for the race.

“The horse is well. The reports from the stable are all positive, so we are just hoping for a good barrier draw and a clean run in transit,” Sherwin said.

“The bookies obviously like him. I think there is a lot of depth to this year’s field and it’s the first go for these horses over 2400m, so he is by no means past the post.

“We’re just looking forward to him showing his best on Saturday and hopefully that is good enough.”

Surely Sacred has been impressive in his first racing preparation and Sherwin said he could likely head to the spelling paddock after Saturday.

“Given that it is still his first racing preparation, it is very much race by race and this might be his grand final for this prep,” he said. ‘’But we will reassess after Saturday.”

Surely Sacred is the latest emerging talent out of Raffles Farm, which is owned by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San, and Sherwin is hoping the son of Rock ‘n’ Pop can reach the lofty heights of some other notable graduates.

“He (Dato Yap) bought Raffles Farm back in 2008 and he’s had excellent success with the likes of Sacred Falls and Shamrocker and this horse hopefully can replicate some of their performances at some stage,” Sherwin said.

Raffles Farm, which is located on 60 hectares near Cambridge, is home to 30 broodmares, and boasts 13 Group One winners.

“Dato Yap has been a big investor in the industry and he loves New Zealand racing,” Sherwin said. “With Sacred Falls now at stud, he has got a lot invested in the game.”

Another Raffles Farm-owned horse that Sherwin is hoping will perform at Ellerslie on Saturday is Sacred Day.

The Azamour gelding will line-up in the Nathans Memorial (2200m) and is being set on a path towards the Queensland Winter Carnival later this year.

“He’s a really talented stayer,” Sherwin said. “He was probably ridden a bit too close last time at Te Rapa.

“We are looking at getting his rating up with the idea of taking him to Brisbane for the Winter Carnival.

“There are some nice races up there if he can progress his prizemoney and increase his rating to make those fields.”

– NZ Racing Desk