Military Move provides Ritchie with another highlight

Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie rates the return to form of Military Move at Awapuni today as one of the highlights of his training career.

Military Move was part of a Group One double with Keep The Pace (NZ Oaks) during the autumn of 2010 for Ritchie and he then headed to Hong Kong to race for his owner Steven Lo. He had 19 starts in Hong Kong for two wins and five placings and had been off the winner’s list for 23 months.

But the drought ended today in his third start since his return from Hong Kong and he did it in style, finishing strongly down the outside to take the Ecolab Handicap (2100m) in the hands of Jonathan Riddell.

“I know it was a 2100-metre race and the field wasn’t the highest class, but it’s doubly satisfying for a trainer and the staff to see such a good horse come back to the winner’s circle,” said Ritchie.

“He’d been working well and he had a happy attitude around the stable, but you don’t know they will come up after being in Hong Kong,”

Military Move is now raced by Ritchie’s wife, Alison, in partnership with Belinda Bellingham, wife of Paul Bellingham, who manages Lo’s racing affairs in Australasia.

“Mr Lo races a lot of top horses in Hong Kong, including Military Attack (2012-13 Hong Kong Horse Of The Year) and Xtension, who has won the Champions Mile twice,” said Ritchie. “He felt Military Move had hit his level over there and he gifted him back to us — Paul Bellingham and myself. We decided to let our wives race him and let them have some fun with him.

“Today’s win is a good tonic for Belinda because she has had some health issues. This will pick her up a bit.”

Ritchie believes Military Move was worth a gamble, feeling the horse could recapture some of his former glory being trained the New Zealand way with access to paddocks and more space than is available in Hong Kong.

Military Move carried the topweight of 59kg today when overhauling Figure Again and Wisecrack and, with a likely increase in his 96 rating, Ritchie is aware he will have to place the horse astutely this summer.

“We’ll have to fight off the handicapper through the summer,” he said. “To be fair, he’s won almost $2 million do he’s earned his rating. I’ll just have to space his starts and go straight into races like the Waikato Cup and City Of Auckland Cup.

“One thing about him is that we know he loves Ellerslie so the City Of Auckland Cup could be a good target.”