The powerful and local Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman stable completed a stakes double for the day on Saturday when Nicoletta took out the Gr.3 Rich Hill Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Hawera.
Just over an hour after her Cambridge stablemate Deals In Heels had scored in the Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m), Nicoletta also put her first victory at stakes level on the board after registering a pair of Group One placings in her previous campaign.
Unsighted since finishing third in the Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa in April, the Savabeel mare paraded in a forward condition courtesy of a pair of recent trial runs. A win in an open heat over 1200m in Cambridge last month topped her off nicely for Saturday’s contest.
A positive ride from experienced jockey Jonathan Riddell saw the mare dispute the pace throughout before easing clear entering the home straight. Despite being hotly challenged over the last 200m Nicoletta kicked back bravely to hold out the fast-finishing race favourite, Livin’ On A Prayer with Art Deco also finishing powerfully to snatch third.
“We thought this race was perfect for her as she has been ready to go first up for a while now,” said co-trainer Andrew Forsman, who listened to the race in his car as he made his way home from the Matamata track.
“The only worry was the 1400m as she is better suited to the mile or beyond but being on the fresh side meant she could get away with what sounded like a very brave effort.
“We did think the race set up well as the weight-for-age conditions suited a quality mare like her who could sit handy and kick hard, which is what she did.”
Forsman is convinced his charge is ready for a profitable spring campaign now she has put this win on the board. “She will only get better as she steps up in distance so there is a lot to look forward to,” he said. “The obvious plan is to pick up as much black-type as we can so I would expect to see her in some of the better races coming up. I think something like the Zabeel Classic (Gr.1 2000m) at the Ellerslie Christmas carnival is a race she could be very competitive in so we will be working out how best to get her there.”