Thunderdbird is No.1 today

Thunderbird One’s prospects of contesting the Gr.1 $200,000 Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings on August 31 are in the hands of the handicapper.

The exciting Cambridge galloper made a most impressive return to racing when crushing his rivals in the Westbury Stud 1200 at today’s Hastings meeting, leaving trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman to decide on a possible step up to weight-for-age conditions in the Makfi Challenge Stakes.

When asked whether the Makfi Challenge Stakes would be Thunderbird One’s next start, Forsman replied: “It depends on what rating points he gets from today’s race.”

Thunderbird One went into today’s event on a rating of 88 and he easily accounted for the higher-rated horses Fritzy Boy (103) and No Excuse Maggie (99), with the latter being the closest of the duo at the finish when fourth.

Thunderbird One was ridden for the first time by stable apprentice Brendan Hutton, whose 3kg claim reduced his weight to just 51.5kg, and he gave his supporters no concern from the outset, even loading into the barrier. Known for his bad barrier manners at times, he was loaded last by the barrier staff and walked straight into his stall without fuss.

Oldtimer Fritzy Boy was one of the first beginners and was soon joined in front by Kaap Kruis with Thunderbird One up three-wide and working quickly into the lead.

Coming to the home turn Kaap Kruis ranged up alongside Thunderbird One while challenges came from both inside and outside, but Hutton had a handful of horse under him.

Once balanced up, Thunderbird One soon asserted his superiority and drew clear to win easily under no more than a hands and heels ride from Hutton. “Coming into the straight, I haven’t felt like that on a horse before. He was travelling so well,” said Hutton.

Thunderbird One was chased home by Figure Again, who ran on down the outside, while Gossiping held third from No Excuse Maggie with Delecta Dreims next.

Forsman was the stable representative on course today and, naturally, he was thrilled with the performance of Thunderbird One. “I’m glad Brendan rode him like he did,” said Forsman. “We worked it out before the race that with the track drying out nothing was coming from the back. The plan was to ride him positive and that’s what Brendan did.”

Thunderbird One holds nominations for all three legs of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown, the last two legs being the Gr.1 $200,000 Windsor Park Stud Plate on September 21 and the Gr.1 $250,000 Spring Classic on October 5.