Exciting stayer emerges

Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman kept Scott Richardson amazing run of good fortune going big-time at Trentham today.

The Cambridge trainers prepared the Richardson-owned Serpent to win the Listed $50,000 Lincoln Lodge NZ St Leger in just his sixth start. And the manner in which the son of Chinese Dragon accomplished the feat in the hands of NZ Derby winning jockey Vinnie Colgan suggests he has an exciting future as a stayer.

Serpent recorded the 16th win for Richardson in the last eight months and his victory came hard on the heels of the Group III Westbury Classic victory of Diademe at Ellerslie on Auckland Cup day. Diademe is in line to head to Sydney for the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap and try and add to Richardson’s Sydney luck experienced with his good stayer Mr Tipsy.

A $25,000 purchase by Richardson from the 2011 Select Session of the National Yearling Sales at Karaka, Serpent and is proving a fine advertisement for his sire, Chinese Dragon.

He was unplaced in his first four trials, including a couple of juvenile heats, but showed ability on debut when second over 1600 metres at Pukekohe last December. He then failed in his second start, but with blinkers applied next time he ran an encouraging fifth after being held up on the turn and followed up with an easy win in a four-horse field over 1600 at Pukekohe.

Baker and Forsman then tested Serpent out at the Auckland Cup carnival when stepped up to 2100 metres and he handled the task well, winning a special conditions event.

Today’s race was a big jump, both in class and distance, for Serpent and he was the only three-year-old in the race, but he gave his older rivals a galloping lesson.

“I wanted to get a handy position early and they handed it (the lead) up to me and we got away with cheap sectionals early,” said Colgan. “He picked up nicely at the 600 and won it really well.

“Next year he could be winning open handicaps. He could be pretty special.”

Though Serpent came up against some promising stayers, including the hot favourite Asavant (who had finished third to Sangster at Te Rapa), he was considered a definite chance in the St Leger by his connections.

“He had shown the further he goes the better he will be,” said Forsman. “I just told Vinnie ‘don’t make it a sprint home’ and he rode him well.”

Forsman also noted that Harris Tweed had run fourth in the St Leger for the Baker stable back in 2009 then two starts later ran second in the AJC Derby.

Serpent isn’t entered for the Group I $A1.5 million ATC Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on April 13, but it would be no surprise to see him show some of the talent of Harris Tweed.

Harris Tweed won the Tulloch Stakes in Sydney before his Derby second and he later went on to include among his big-race placings seconds in the Caulfield Cup and NZ Stakes, a third in the Sydney Cup and fifths in two Melbourne Cups.

It’s a big transition from St Leger winner to Cup winner, but Serpent has the makings of an exciting stayer.