Norvall puts Veyron in HOY contention

Cambridge galloper Veyron became a leading contender for the NZ Horse Of The Year award after a mighty win in the $200,000 Manco Easter Handicap at Ellerslie yesterday.

The Linda Laing-trained stable star went into the race as the defending Easter Handicap champion, having won the event last year in the hands of Rogan Norvall, and he repeated the achievement yesterday thanks to a brilliant ride by Norvall.

The win was the fourth Group One success for Veyron and the third this season, putting him equal in the Group One achievements this term with the Taranaki mare Shez Sinsational.

Of the 22 Group One races in New Zealand Cambridge-trained horses have again made their presence felt. Seven of the Group Ones have been won by horses trained on the Cambridge track with Say No More (two), Artistic and Silent Achiever joining Veyron on the list, while another horse trained in the area is Guiseppina, winner of the Group I Telegraph Handicap.

Veyron provided Norvall and Laing with a special thrill when winning last year‘s Easter Handicap, but this year’s result overshadowed that highlight. The reason for putting yesterday’s race at the top of the list if
the reuniting of Veyron and Norvall, who missed Veyron’s two earlier Group One wins this season because of injury.

“This win has given me my greatest pleasure,” said Laing straight after the race. “I’ve endured the most pressure ever in the last 10 days for putting Rogan straight back on. People were saying he won’t have his
eye in and he’d need more time.

“But jockeys today are professionals, just look at Jason Collett and Andrew Calder. They’re straight back into it and winning.

“I knew Rogan wouldn’t let me or the horse down and he didn’t. It was an outstanding ride.”

Making Veyron’s task tougher this year than 12 months ago was the combination of his weight (59kg) and his outside draw (22). But Norvall rode positively and put paid to the latter concern.

Norvall quickly worked Veyron across to be in front on the rail then took a hold and got him into a rhythm. Soon after he had stacked up the field and Jetset Lad worked around to take over the lead with Norvall
content to idle along in the trail.

The only concern for Norvall and the connections of Veyron was early in the run home when Veyron was pocketed behind Jetset Lad with Alegrio on his outer, but Norvall worked him into the clear, the big horse
shouldered his way into an opening.

It was the obvious Veyron was going to take the money and so it proved as he powered to the finish, scoring by a half length from the gallant Postman’s Daughter with Cambridge mare Fleur de Lune picking up another Group One placing when third, a half-head away.

The win was the first for Norvall since his fall at the trials last December. He resumed last weekend and went into yesterday’s meeting with a handful of rides under his belt.

But Norvall was confident he was ready for the task and he proved it in no uncertain fashion. It truly was a masterful ride and a most popular result.

“It all worked to plan,” said Norvall. “I was a bit worried turning in when we were held up, but he was too good. I’m so grateful to Linda and the owners for putting me back on the horse.”

Veyron will now head out for a spell on the farm of his owners Isabell and Alistair Barker. “He’ll come back in about June,” said Laing.

While Norvall’s ride captured the attention, the training achievement of Laing must be recognised.

It was a top training effort to get Veyron to peak once again this season and Laing has chosen her path with the son of Thorn Park carefully. Maybe Australia will get to see Veyron in action next season.