From the Commentary Box – Monday, 3rd February 2014

Memories of multiple Group One winner Sir Slick came flooding back at Te Rapa last Saturday.

Sir Slick, the former Iron Horse of NZ racing during a hugely successful career that spanned several seasons, won the majority of his 22 races by dominating from in front.

His toughness and durability throughout his illustrious career, endeared him to a legion of racing fans.

Puccini, a half brother to Sir Slick by Encosta De Lago, rekindled those Sir Slick memories when winning the Waikato Guineas on Saturday.

Trained by Peter and Jacob McKay at Matamata for local breeders and owners Paul and Cushla Smithies, Puccini gave a Sir Slick type performance in winning the Group Two feature.

From the extreme outside barrier at the tricky 2000m start, Puccini was sent forward by rider Michael Walker.

After making the bend out of the home straight a little awkwardly, Puccini strode forward to lead with 1300m to run.

From there, Walker was able to dictate the tempo of the race to suit his mount.

“Once he got to the front he settled nicely and I was pretty confident coming to the home turn” said Walker later.

It was a brilliant ride by Walker which undoubtedly assisted Puccini, but for mine it was the tenacity Puccini showed over the final stages, which impressed me the most.

He was hotly persued by runner up Colonel Carrera, who had enjoyed a cosy run in the trail throughout.

Yet, Puccini never looked like flinching and held on the score by a neck.

The third position was filled by Weregoingtogetcha, who finished on strongly from well back in the field.

The disappointment in the race was favourite Chambord who never got warm, finishing well back.

Puccini now looms as one of the favourites for the TV3 Derby next month at Ellerslie.

He has now won two of the major lead up races in the Great Northern Guineas and Waikato Guineas and wasn’t that far from Recite in the Group One Levin Classic at his previous start.

He will take a power of beating.

As will the third horse on Saturday, Weregoingtogetcha.

Apart from the winner, Weregoingtogetcha was the run of the race.

He settled well back but was the only runner to make up ground over the final stages.

I reckon he made up 6 to 8 lengths on Puccini over the final 300m.

From a Derby perspective it was an eyecatching performance.

Congratulations to Trevor Cruz who trained his first winner, Packing Tycoon, at Te Rapa on Saturday.

The son of top Hong Kong trainer Derek Cruz was lining up just his third race day starter.

“The other two both placed so to win with this horse today is a great thrill” said Cruz.

Packing Tycoon was ridden to victory by Opie Bosson who was impressed with the win.

“He put them away pretty easily and had plenty left in the tank” said Bosson.

Cruz relocated to Cambridge last year and has steadily built up his team.

“I knew it would take time to settle into the new routine, but I’m happy with the way things are going” he said.

I’ll catch you next week.