A Group One milestone for leading Cambridge stable

Atlante and Opie Bosson providing a a memorable win for Cambridge in the 2000 Guineas. (Photo: Trish Dunell).

Atlante and Opie Bosson providing a a memorable win for Cambridge in the 2000 Guineas. (Photo: Trish Dunell).

Atlante credited Murray Baker with victory in a Group One race that had been missing from his impressive CV when taking the $400,000 Sothys NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton today.

Though Baker has been training for many years (initially at Woodville), his representation in the 2000 Guineas has been light compared to other major events.

Going into today’s race his best results had been four placegetters. He had seconds with Eagle Eye in 1990 and Ambitious Owner in 2004 (behind Clean Sweep), while Mafioso was third to Veandercross in 1991 and three years ago his filly Twilight Savings was third to Jimmy Choux before backing up to run second to King’s Rose in the Gr. 1 NZ Bloodstock 1000 Guineas.

Eagle Eye came closest to 2000 Guineas glory for Baker when beaten a half-head by Surfers Paradise in just his third start. He had won his debut at Woodville and run fourth in the Wellington Guineas then later developed into a top stayer with the Gr. 1 Ranvet Stakes -Sydney Cup double.

Ambitious Owner was beaten a half-length in his 2000 Guineas bid in his fifth start and went into the race as a last-start Gr. 2 Wellington Guineas winner. He followed up next start to give Baker Group One success in the Bayer Classic, the race also won by Eagle Eye.

Baker went into a training partnership with Andrew Forsman last season and last year the partners lined up two horses in the 2000 Guineas. Last-start Wellington Guineas winner Neo finished ninth and two placings behind was stablemate Mac Orla, who went into the race with a hat trick of wins.

This year looked likely to be the stable’s best prospect of success in the NZ 2000 Guineas. On the strength of a solid win in the Listed Holloway Builders Canterbury Stakes (1600m) at Riccarton on October 26, Atlante was installed favourite for the first of the three-year-old classics, but it wasn’t an easy path to victory.

As he had done in the lead-up, Atlante rolled forward to make the pace, but he was quickly challenged on the home turn, at which stage fellow Cambridge galloper Sacred Park looked to be travelling like the winner as he loomed into the action.

But midway down the home straight Sacred Park’s challenge had come to an end and the Matamata pair of Gobi Ranger and Chambord came hard at Atlante. Chambord headed Atlante and looked set to win the race, but the Baker-Forsman runner refused to give in and came back strongly to win by three-quarters of a length.

It was 2000 Guineas win number five for Atlante’s rider, Opie Bosson, and he admitted afterwards it was one of his hardest rides to victory in a big race.

“I couldn’t steer him, he hung that badly up the straight,” said Bosson. “If he had gone straight he would have won by five lengths. He was coming away from them at the end.”

Atlante’s win was also a great result for Cambridge couple Mark and Shelley Treweek, who race the son of Fastnet Rock in partnership with Lib Petagna and Rhonda Phillippo.

Atlante was bought by the Treweeks for A$170,000 from the Sydney Inglis Yearling Sale with a view to turning him over at last year’s Ready To Run Sale, but when the horse was knocked down for $200,000 to Wellingtonian Lib Petagna in the latter sale they sought to keep an interest.

“We really liked the horse,” said Treweek. “We had a $200,000 reserve on him and thought he would go for more. When we only got $200,000 we asked Lib if we could stay in for a share and he agreed. It’s been a great result.”

Unfortunately the Treweeks were unable to be on course for today’s major triumph.

“We’d have loved to have been down there, but we’ve got a barn-full of horses to look after here,” said Mark Treweek. “One of our neighbours is having a Guy Fawkes party tonight so we can’t go anywhere. We’ve got to be here for the horses.”

Judging by the potential being shown by Atlante, there should be many more opportunities to celebrate, maybe in Sydney next autumn.