This time last year his connections were dreaming of a prestigious 2400-metre feature at Ellerslie in March, but it was only today that Delago’s Secret truly came of age with a determined victory over the same course and distance in the Gr. 3 Scot Thrust City of Auckland Cup.
A son of Encosta De Lago and the Thunder Gulch mare Divine Secret, Delago’s Secret emerged as a New Zealand Derby contender with a string of classy performances through the early part of 2014. The three-year-old classic came a little too soon for the gelding, however, and his connections had to be patient as the gelding slowly developed and grew. Their patience was richly rewarded in today’s $200,000 feature.
“This was the main aim for this season and we got it,” trainer Roger James said. “He’ll be a better horse next year. He’s a little horse who doesn’t always help himself and has tended to be slowly away in his races, but the wide draw today didn’t help him either. He’s shown a bit of grit though and come out on top in a tight finish. He’s got a bit of ticker.”
Delago’s Secret broke slowly again today from his wide gate and settled towards the rear of the field, never letting the favoured runner Surpass out of his sight.
“I wanted to follow Surpass who I thought was the toughest to beat in the race,” winning rider Danielle Johnson said. “The horse relaxed nicely in the run and then fought really hard in the straight. Surpass lifted and fought back, but he was able to dig in and come out on top. It was a tough effort.”
The pair swept to the front at the top of the straight and drew away to fight it out between them. Surpass appeared to have the upper hand but Delago’s Secret refused to surrender and doggedly drew closer and closer. Surpass rose to the challenge and fought back, but Delago’s Secret courageously found more and scored by a head in an exciting finish. The rest of the field were three and a half lengths adrift, headed by Show The World.
Delago’s Secret has now had 14 starts for five wins and two placings. James said the gelding would not be pushed too hard in this campaign and was unlikely to line up in any of the other upcoming staying features.
“I’m in no hurry with him,” he said. “He’s still improving. This might be his last start for a while, or maybe there might be a short Australian campaign for him. But you never make those decisions on raceday.”
Matamata owner-breeders Paul and Shirlie Ryan were only a head away from a memorable feature double. They won the Gr. 1 Railway less than an hour earlier with In Style, then were only narrowly denied with Surpass in the City of Auckland Cup.
The race was marred by a fall at the top of the straight, where The Fire Inside dislodged rider Michael McNab. Several other runners were severely impeded in the incident, particularly Deane Martin who was not persevered with and finished 50 lengths from the winner. McNab was seen sitting up on the track after his heavy fall but was taken to Auckland Hospital for observation. He was described as conscious and coherent.
- The Informant