One down, two to go.
New Zealand trainer Paul Richards’ decision to bring Natuzzi across the Tasman for late autumn races in Melbourne and Adelaide reaped an immediate reward at Caulfield on Saturday.
After Natuzzi’s win in the Pink Ribbon Cup, Richards now plans to back Natuzzi up in next Saturday’s Victoria Handicap and next month’s Group One Goodwood in Adelaide is on the radar.
“We just wanted to test the water a bit today,” Richards said.
“If he brought his A-game he was going to be hard to beat.”
Natuzzi, a last-start Listed winner at Trentham and Group One Telegraph Handicap runner-up earlier this campaign, settled midfield from a wide gate in the 1200m sprint before angling into the clear and driving through late.
He defeated Couldn’t Agreemore ($8.50) by a half length with favourite Nearest To Pin ($4) the same margin away third.
Natuzzi ($6) took his record to eight wins from 22 starts and is the first horse Richards has travelled to Australia.
In 1998 he rode Ain’t No Doubt, a horse he trained in New Zealand, to a first-up win at Flemington but under Australian rules banning jockeys from also training horses, the mare had to be tranferred to Hec Anderton.
It has also been a long time between Melbourne visits for 49-year-old jockey Chris Johnson who guided Natuzzi victory.
Johnson rode Magnet Bay in the 1997 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and was happy to make the trip again.
“I’ve ridden him quite a few times since he’s been a three-year-old and he’s always shown plenty of ability,” Johnson said.
“When they said they were going over and if I’d like to go and ride him, I jumped at the chance.”
Richards said the prize money on offer in Australia prompted him to bring Natuzzi to Melbourne.
“The stakes today, that’s like a Group Two at home,” he said.